This year, the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) celebrated its five-year anniversary, but the real celebration was amongst the wave of new entrepreneurs – filmmakers.

This year, 300 aspiring creators submitted their ideas to the NVFF Pitch Panel Contest. Twenty semi-finalists were selected to participate in a boot camp with producer & pitch writer, Scott Manville, and industry veteran Peter Belsito. Ten finalists were invited to present their concepts to a panel of film executives – David Glasser, David Greenbaum, Robert Budreau, and Ennis Hensley.

“There has never been a better time for entrepreneurship in the development of new ideas for TV, film and the web. Napa Valley Film Festival has amassed a community of industry experts who are eager to help aspiring writers and filmmakers develop their ideas. We look forward to more creative energy with our Pitch Competition and the entire film festival program at the sixth annual Napa Valley Film Festival, November 9 – 13, 2016.” Mark Lhormer, Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of NVFF.

What Does it Take to Create a Winning Film?

The process can be described in five parts – research, differentiate, set tone, develop script, and distribute.

Research – It’s important to research your topic. Has it been down before? Great. That means the idea resonated with an audience at one time. That brings us to the second part of the process.

Differentiate – When pitching your film, make sure you can differentiate your film from the rest. Money Ball was great, but copying the exact idea would fall flat. However, Money Ball for a different industry could gain interest.

Establish Tone – When pitching a film, it is critical to establish the tone. Viewers are captivated by the way you make them feel. How will your film make viewers feel? Will they laugh? Will they rethink common beliefs? Or will they cry?

Script – Your ideas mean nothing if you can’t get a script on paper. There are plenty of free resources to help you with this process. You wouldn’t start a business without sketching out critical concepts on a business model canvas, so why would you develop a film with no formal roadmap?

Distribution – Last, but definitely not least, is distribution. Today, filmmakers have a plethora of platforms. But you must think about this ahead of time. Where do you believe your content will do best? Is your film best suited for theatrical release? Could this be Nextflix’s next big hit? Or is your film best suited as a TV series on a cable channel?

Funding Your Film

Now that you’ve created something that is worthy of production, you’ll need capital. A decade ago, you would have needed to convince an established studio to back your film. This may have required millions of dollars in initial production. Today, you can shoot a trailer for next to nothing and run a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter.

Your first step is creating a realistic budget based on what you need to get your film to the next stage. Films by seasoned entertainers –Veronica Mars ($5.7 million) and Wish I Was Here ($3.1 million) – can raise millions with the help of a strong fan base. If you are a novice, you’ll need to work on building your community before you launch your campaign. The good news is that you can begin now by creating social media accounts to establish dialogue around the idea.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a large fan base. Oscar nominated King’s Point ($10,165) and Inocente ($55,522) prove that you don’t have to crowdfund millions to get noticed by the Academy. All you need is a winning film.

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