WTF is a slate and why are filmmakers relying on them in 2020?

Something exciting is happening in the industry. The stories being told are becoming more and more diverse. There’s more freedom for creators to tell their stories the way they really want to. Which is why a slate is the most important thing to work on right now.

The old way

A slate used to be reserved for producers and production companies. Have a look at any production companies on IMdB and you’ll see a whole host of projects they’ve announced, have in all stages of production. 

But it’s just as important for individuals to develop their own slate in 2020, even if you’re a one-woman show and don’t have an entire development team. 

Why a slate will change your filmmaking career

There are two reasons why filmmakers are relying on their own slates in 2020. First, you always have something to work on when you have a slate. 

Creators all know the struggle of taking your idea to a finished script, and finishing the film seems like a near-impossible goal. 

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The biggest time suck for creators is actually developing the ideas. When you have your own slate, which is brimming with all kinds of ideas, you cut that element of the process out.

*Bye bye wondering what the hell to make next*

Read more: How to create unique short film ideas (that no one else is making)

The second reason is to always give you something to pitch. We never know when we’re going to be asked, “What are you working on?” and we never know what the outcome of those conversations will be. 

By having an up-to-date slate of your own, you won’t be wondering what to say, and you’ll potentially get an investor, producer or sales agent interested in your next project.

But here’s the catch. It’s not enough to say, “Oh it’s a drama about …”

That won’t get the attention you need.

It’s all in the details

You have to have a clear idea of exactly what your project is, even if your nowhere near writing the script. 

People pay attention to the details, so give them as much detail as possible. 

Planning out projects in your slate is the lazy girl’s way of fully developing a project (without staring blankly at your laptop waiting for ideas).

Read more: The simple script structure that takes your story from idea to award-winning film

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How to start using your slate in your career

  1. Constantly develop new ideas and projects
  2. Seriously cut down the time it takes to develop projects 
  3. Stay on top of all your ideas and projects (no more wondering which notebook you wrote that idea down in
  4. Identify the important details of each project 
  5. Always have something to pitch (and a ton of backup pitches)
  6. Switch to pitching another fully-developed project if your pitch meeting isn’t going so well
  7. Make the most of your current project’s festival release, by pitching your next projects at screenings
  8. Cut out the waiting time between releasing one project and getting started on the next one

A slate + scheduling weekly development time is the secret hack that creators are relying on to develop a ton of pitch-ready ideas, and make more projects in less time. 

We all know that feeling of total exhaustion after you’ve finished making a film. It’s then that we have to take a break, which means we don’t get started on our next project until months later. And when we do get started, we’re starting from scratch, making the whole process longer. 

I’m calling time on that, because it’s the least productive, least creative way to make films. Which is why my clients end up creating a slate with at least 20 fully developed ideas on it by the end of our 12 weeks together.

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Ready to create your own slate? Let’s get started.

The easy way to create your own slate

I know you have a ton of ideas, more than enough to fill up your own slate, so open your Google docs and get started. 

I split my slate into four parts: ideas, in development, in production and in post

Schedule a couple of hours a week to let your brain get creative, and write down any and every idea that comes to mind. Leave these in the Ideas section so you can come back to them later.

Add all of your firm project ideas to the Development section. Anything that you have a logline for goes in here. As every project is usually at a different stage of development, add in plenty of notes to this section. 

Ask yourself:

  • Does it have a finished script? 
  • Is a producer attached? 
  • Has it been greenlit? 
  • Is it currently being submitted to funding bodies and competitions? 

Add it all to the notes.

Once it starts production you can move it into the Production section, then into Post.

You can also include the link to the project file in Google Drive or Dropbox in your slate, as well as any artwork or other links relating to the project, like press releases or interviews. 

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The numbers

Now your slate is up and running, let’s look at the numbers. How many projects do you need in development? I always say around 20. This gives you enough to pitch, work on and further develop at any given time. It also means that you have enough options to pick from for your next project.

Remember, the goal is to never have to start from scratch. You need to be able to finish a film and immediately start your next project. So even if the script isn’t finished, or even written yet, you have enough detail about the idea in your slate to get started asap. 

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In order to develop enough ideas, aim to spend 2 hours per week on your slate. You can sit at your desk or draft ideas on your daily commute. You can always write down ideas into a notebook and then type them up later.  

Excited to start creating in 2020? Me too. So I’m giving you access to the Idea to Screenplay workbook at a discount for a limited time only. This is a five part process to get you from zero ideas to finished scripts that are pitch ready. Click here to get your copy.

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