4 TOW: Story Pitch
TOW Story Assignment: Pitch
- Chose one of the mediums from the first part of the workshop in which to produce your final story, no longer than six minutes. All interviews should be done in-person (no phone or Skype).
- Post one paragraph (three or less sentences) about your proposed story in our TOW Group. (You’ll be working on this for the rest of the workshop.)
- After input from other learners, re-pitch if necessary.
- Begin scheduling interviews for your Story Assignment.
- If you have helpful advice about other’s pitches off it. Heed what other say about your pitch.
Four examples from TOW 0.2 learners:
- Assignment: Story Pitch- audio (by Meredith Johnson)
Two guys walked into a bar in a Mexican border town. One of them was there to play in a Love and Rockets tribute band, the other was the bassist from the actual band. This is the story of how that chance encounter changed their lives.
- Assignment: Story Pitch- audio slideshow or video (by Kim Fox)
The summer of 2013 saw a lot of politics and protests in Cairo… and several of my female students and colleagues removed their veil. But why? I’ll profile three women — one who unveiled last year, one who unveiled this summer, and one who’s considering unveiling — about their reasons for shedding a religious symbol in an Islamic country.
- Assignment: Story Pitch- audio (by Kate Montague)
Bob had a profound experience when he interviewed his father and recorded his stories before he died. Months later, following a dramatic near death experience, he decided to leave the stress of the corporate world and do something that he really loved. Today Bob has his own business called The Memory Man, where he records and collects peoples stories so they can share them with their loved ones.
- Assignment: Story Pitch- audio (by Anna Miller)
I met a woman whose told me she had the best job in the world as a hospice nurse. I want to know how hospice staff view life and death, and how each day they face what most people spend their entire lives avoiding.
- Transom “Notes from a Pitching Novice”
- NPR “Next Generation Radio” Pitching Stories”
- AIR “Pitches that Work”
- This American Life “Sample Pitches”
- Transom Alex Blumberg on Pitching This American Life
- CBC “Radio Pitch – Index”
- BBC “Commissioning”
The next assignment is to produce a story of your own choosing, and I want you to pitch your idea in three sentences or less.
The goal of these first three exercises has been to show you that you have everything you need to produce a story in any medium. A while ago I was flipping the channel between the football game and The Wizard of Oz. At half time the Patriots were down 24-0, and the good witch was telling Dorothy she’s always been able to go home whenever she wants, she just had to go through all that shit with flying monkeys and melting witches in order to see it. And then the Patriots came back and won the game in overtime 34-31. So, you see the plan here?
You’ve always been able to produce a story. You’ve been producing stories since you began to talk. Now you’ve battled the flying monkeys and melted the witch and you have some new tools, some magic slippers, a football. What do you want to do? What place or thing or person do you want to show the world? What do you want to describe or explain to everyone? You got to see it in your mind. Then describe it in three sentences or less.
What you see might be hard to describe or maybe you don’t know until you go somewhere and find it. I’ve done a lot of stories that would have been hard to pitch, successfully, to the show where they ultimately played. One time I pitched a story, in person, to the science editor at NPR and she went cross-eyed, stopped breathing, and walked out of the room. I told her my brother is a scientist who thinks humans evolved as endurance predators and he wants to test the theory by trying to run down a pronghorn antelope. It didn’t go over well at the time but the story ended up being pretty good. My point is that it’s ok if you don’t quite know what’s going to happen, how your story is going to turn out, or even what it’s going to be about in the end. For now I just want you to describe what you want to try to do.
Come up with a simple plan for producing a short and simple story in one of the three mediums we’ve practiced: photojournalism, audio, and video production. Your final story can be in any of these mediums. It might be best, however, to come up with an idea first, then decide what medium is best for that idea.
Pitch the story to people you know, see if you get any feedback. then start scheduling interviews and recording the elements.
We’re keeping the parameters loose like this because basically at this point you should be pursuing your own passion and curiosity.
If you can’t come up with an idea ask yourself what tools did you most like using: the camera, the audio or the video recorder? Then think about where and how you had the most fun using them. Then go back and do that some more. A series of interviews, or a vox pop, is perfectly acceptable. A series of photos (with captions or quotes) of any particular subject could also be good. Try to keep the idea simple and then spend a lot of time on getting the best elements or tape or photos as possible. Then pay attention to the details in editing and producing. This takes a lot of time and patience.
Remember that this is a documentary workshop, so your story should be about something that happened or is happening to real people, hopefully recorded or documented in the place that it happened or is happening.
When I try to come up with an idea I ask myself this question: What do I want to do?
It’s a pretty general question, but it cuts right to the heart of the matter. I should pay attention to and follow my own desire and curiousity. What do I want to learn about? What question do I want to answer? What object do I want to pursue? I believe the best stories come from this kind of approach.