Suitcase Tales - The Sizzle Reel
Posted on 17 March, 2017 by Team Wishberry
Image Source: Pic Dn
So you had a pitch meeting with prospective producers and they asked you to mail them “everything”. What do you send out?
Logline, Plot, Synopsis? They already heard this from you during the pitch.
Director profile? They know the basics or they wouldn’t have met you.
Script? It requires them to set out two or three hours at a stretch and that’s a lot of commitment in a world where all of us – including you during a movie – can’t help but reply to a text or a tweet. Besides, yours is not the only script on that table.
A senior screenwriter friend told me that when people ask him for the script, he always omits a few pages in the hard copy he submits. “Usually around the halfway mark. So if they haven’t called me to say the pages are missing, I know they haven’t got around to reading it or are just lying about having read it.” In most cases, they haven’t called him back to check on the missing pages because they don’t read. “If they do, then I apologise for the clerical error and email them the script or send it across right away. But at least, I know that they read it.”
So how do you convince producers or funders about the film you have in your head?
You cut, what studio executives around the world call, a sizzle reel.
While sizzle reels, or audio-visual pitches, can be cut for any product or service before launch, it makes a lot of sense to cut one for your film to be able to project the kind of film you have in mind. Think of it as a trailer for the film you want to make. Except that you haven’t shot it.
What if I tell you that you don’t need a budget for a sizzle reel or an editor though it helps to have a friend help you put it together. You can do it yourself.
Here’s how I cut one:
1. Identify key visual action that needs to be in the trailer you see in your head. For example, in END, a couple falls from the skies after their spaceship explodes on re-entry. They land in a very different hostile world where they are attacked. They need to find a boat and a way to get to civilization or what’s left of it. They fight but also have sex on the beach. The sexual tension keeps the film ticking. Except that everything is surreal. Like a bad nightmare.
2. Once you have underlined the key visuals you need, source them. You will find some in stock footage (that you can buy if you have the budget) and some from other movies in the genre. Find reference locations from other movies but going movie by movie, ripping it and getting the right clip would take ages. Also, it’s not worth the effort downloading a whole movie for two seconds of footage. The easiest way to look for what you need exactly is by searching for gifs. Use the Google Image Search, go to Advanced and search only for Animated images. Type the keywords of what you need in the search box.
3. It takes about two hours to find and download the 30-40 gifs you need to tell your story. You can shortlist them during the edit. Now, you need to convert the gifs to mp4s. There are online converters for that (I used gif-2-mp4.com). A couple of hours later, you have 30-40 video clips.
4. You need iMovie. Create a new Project using the Trailer template and not the Movie. iMovies has templates for different genres.
We pick Scary because it suits the theme for the film. iMovie now lays it out for you. You just need to replace the text and drag and drop your video clips in the order you need them into the template.
If you don’t have iMovie, use Windows Movie Maker except that you have to line up the shots, text and music taking a cue from trailers of similar genre films.
5. Once you are done, you can convert the Trailer into Movie and change the music or the credit slate if you want. That’s what I did. And this is what it looks like when you are done.
There’s no guarantee that a sizzle reel will make your producers/funders read your script but at least it tells them visually about the kind of film you will make, whether or not you share the same sensibilities and give them some idea of the mix between thrills and action.
Sure they don’t speak indie but everybody can tell from a mock-up trailer if that’s the kind of film they want to make. Or see.