Are You The Best Person To Tell This Story?: How To Make Your Idea Stand Out

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the doc world lately, you’ll see Breakthrough alum and director Victoria Lean’s name everywhere. Her film After the Last River, about the effects of diamond mining in Northern Ontario, opened the 2015 Planet in Focus Film Festival, where it won Best Canadian Feature award. It also nabbed the Nigel Moore Award at DOXA 2015.

POV Magazine wrote its cover story on the film, and later profiled Victoria in their article about up and coming Canadian filmmakers. The film is making its rounds across Canada right now, but we got a chance to speak to Victoria about creating a strong, compelling story around your documentary. 

What’s the best way to make your idea stand out?

Know why you’re the best person to tell the story. Figure out why you’re compelled to tell it, what makes your access to the subject unique, and what makes you different than anyone else in telling that story.

Find ways to communicate that enthusiasm. Answer the question: why you? Why are you the one to bring the story into the world? That’s not just important when you’re pitching, but also when you’re embarking on a project. It takes years to make a documentary. You have to be really passionate about it.

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What advice would you give producers reaching out to broadcasters and funders?

A lot of buyers are asking what’s the story, what’s the hook, what’s the journey that the film will take you on. I think some docs can be about Important Issues without having a clear story. It can be hard for funders (and audiences) to engage with complex issues without also seeing something that appeals to the heart, whether that’s a compelling story or a strong character.

That’s really important to appealing to a broadcaster. Develop a really strong story that’s also concise and short.

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Did the Breakthrough Program help with After the Last River?

Definitely. Breakthrough forced me to strengthen my personal reasons for telling the story and also what the story was. It helped me think through the critical elements of the film and how it would be told.

This was one of the first opportunities I had to talk about it with people who didn’t know me. I ended up getting feedback that I hadn’t previously considered, some of which ended up in the film. One of those elements even ended up being a favourite part for some.

To apply for the 2018 Breakthrough program, click here. Application deadline is December 5, 2017. 

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