Paul Pauwels is the EDN (European Documentary Network) Director. Previously he was the head of the Belgian production company Congoo and former director of the European Television and Media Management Academy (ETMA). He continues to work worldwide as a tutor and moderator. Pauwels is sharing his guidelines for a successful documentary pitch. In this second part of the series, Pauwels shares 7 “W”s that help build a successful pitch.

Part 1: Pitching 101: Writing the Pitch, and Other Pitch Preparations
Part 2: The Ws That Build a Successful Pitch
Part 3: When You’re in the Room

1. What

The Story

  • Give a clear and simple description of your subject. What is your film about? Tell them clearly  and mention the name of the film often.
  • Who do you want to reach with your film? Who is the target audience?


  • Dramatic approach: how are you going to tell the story?
  • Visual approach: what is the film going to look like?

The Project

  • Shooting format
  • Stand alone film or a series?
  • Genre

What are you looking for?

  • Development?
  • Co-production?
  • Pre-buy?
  • Post-production money?

2. Where

  • Where will the story be set, and what will be your shooting locations?

3. Why

  • The unique selling point: what makes your film different from other projects and why will international audiences want to see this?
  • Motivation: why do you want to make this project and why are you or your director (or company) the right ones to make it?
  • Why should this documentary be made? What makes it special? (The subject? The situation? The market demand or opportunities? Other reasons?)

4. Who

  • Who is going to make the film? Who are you and your team? (Producer, Director, Camera, Others)? What’s the track record and special skills of each of these team members?
  • Who will be in the film, in front of the camera? Why are they are going to work on camera? Why is their story so special?

5. When

  • Time schedule and planning: Preparation, Shoot, Post-production, When will it be available?
  • What is the status of your project? How far are you in development and in financing?

6. Who’s paying

  • Draw up a realistic budget. Keyword realistic.
  • Present a well-structured and realistic financing overview. From the choice of your financial partners you will also show what kind of film you have in mind.
  • Mention the production status, including broadcasters or other partners that have already said “yes.”

7. What to add

  • Letters of intent or commitment
  • Contracts, if they are already signed
  • Relevant pictures or maps
  • Distribution agreements

In the next post in this series, Paul Pauwels has more tips for when you’re in front of the funder.

Part 1: Pitching 101: Writing the Pitch, and Other Pitch Preparations
Part 2: The Ws That Build a Successful Pitch
Part 3: When You’re in the Room

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POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.