Why you need a slate as an indie filmmaker

Producers and production companies usually have some kind of slate – a collection of projects that’s either completed or in development.

So if you’re an indie filmmaker (but not a producer or production company) you’re probably wondering why you need to have your own slate. 

There are three key reasons why having your own slate as a filmmaker will uplevel your career, and the kind of films you get to make. 

1: The Hook

Every filmmaker has been at a screening for their own film, and had someone ask them, “so what are you working on now?”

But you’ve put all your energy, attention and – let’s face it – finances into the film they’ve just watched. Sure you have a few ideas in the pipeline but you haven’t had a chance to really focus on any of them yet. 

So you give the classic answer: “Oh you know, I have a couple of things I’m thinking about…”

You maybe give them an outline of one of the ideas, but you barely know the outline itself.

It’s an uncomfortable situation and you wonder why everyone in film is always so focused on ‘the next thing’.

The problem is (apart from it being awkward and uncomfortable) that you may have just lost yourself a deal with a producer or an investor. 

dun dun DUN

Festivals are the perfect opportunity to pitch your next project, which is why having your slate fully prepped is the key. You’re still able to put all your energy into your current film, AND you have multiple pitch-ready projects in your back pocket. 

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2: The Back Up

We all know what it’s like to be pitching a project when you can tell the other person is not feeling it. 

As a filmmaker, it’s nerve-wracking enough to have to pitch your own work. It’s worse when the response you get is just ‘meh’. 

Not only are you doubting the project you’ve so carefully crafted, you’re always feeling like this meeting was a total waste of time. Worse, the person may never want to hear your project ideas ever again. 

That’s a tad dramatic, but we all know that film is a fast-moving world, so we can’t afford to waste any opportunities.

Luckily for you, if you have your slate filled to the brim with fully-developed projects, you have PLENTY of other options to start pitching instead. 

Fun fact: Gilmore Girls, the successful 7-season  US show, was actually an idea the creator had on the spot, in the middle of a pitch. She was there to pitch another project, when they asked if she had any other ideas. She came up with was ‘a mom and daughter who are more like best friends’, and they bought it. 

Don’t fancy relying on on-the-spot ideas? Me neither. Which is why I spend a lot of time working on my slate.

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3: Future-proofing

Right now we’re nearing the end of October, and for the last two months, the thing I’ve been hearing from filmmakers the most is that they haven’t made the films they wanted to. One director told me his goal was to make three films in 2019, and he’s not even started one yet. 

Ouch. 

Time is always running away from us, which is why filmmakers often start to feel disappointed right about now. 

Making a film always takes a lot longer than we anticipate. So having a slate of developed ideas makes such a difference to filmmakers. 

You can pick any idea up, at any time, and practically ready to start pre-production.

Because when you create a slate you don’t just chuck down a few ideas. You develop each of those ideas in detail, you might even write the script, and then when you’re ready you can pick up the idea and get the hell on with it. 

Hello always having something to work on.

Bye-bye… 

  • Not having anything else to pitch
  • Not knowing what to say when asked, “what are you working on now?”
  • The stop-start of not having a developed project to work on 365 days a year
  • Having a great idea but never doing anything with it 

Want a head-start on creating your slate? I’m breaking down my signature system for you right here in The Producer’s Checklist

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This is the process I use to produce all of my films, develop new ideas and keep my slate full of projects. Make it yours here >>

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