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The Pitch

Episode 4: NOWNESS

Learn about the ins and outs of pitching to media platforms around the world.

Kate Villevoye

November 15th, 2023
Episode 4: NOWNESS

Welcome to The Pitch. Each month, Kate Villevoye, VC member and independent filmmaker, speaks with a commissioner or executive producer at a leading international media platform to learn about the intricacies of their editorial processes and what collaborative opportunities exist for independent video journalists and filmmakers with an unmissable story to pitch.

The Essentials:

  • Platform: Nowness

  • Head of Video: Katie Metcalfe

  • Outlet Type: Editorial and branded

  • Editorial Themes: Art & Design, Culture, Fashion & Beauty, Music and Food & Travel

  • Ideal Video Format: Short documentaries, music videos, fashion film, experimental film, animation

  • Pitches/Submissions Considered? Story pitches aren’t considered, but completed or near-completed films can be submitted

  • Where to submit: here

Today, we’re sitting down with Katie Metcalfe, Commissioning Director of acclaimed arts video channel NOWNESS. The platform was founded by DAZED’s Jefferson Hack in London thirteen years ago. Today, it’s considered by many to be a first port of call for artful, life-affirming short films — a self-proclaimed way to celebrate “the extraordinary in the everyday.” NOWNESS serves up three films a week to two million Instagram followers. Katie and I talked about what it takes for a submission to be a cut above the rest and how to get your film aboard the platform.

"In Residence: Clémence and Didier Krzentowski," 2016.

Kate Villevoye: Katie, let’s start with the basics: can filmmakers reach out to NOWNESS with a story to pitch?

Katie Metcalfe: Filmmakers can definitely submit a completed film, even if it's not final-final – but, of course, if it's in a place that they feel good about. Sometimes we can feed in with notes if they're still in the edit process, as well. Our programmer watches everything that gets submitted to our online submission portal.

When we commission — which happens only when we respond to a brief from a brand or client — we'll always think about the director first, and then they bring on their production company or their producer, or they produce themselves, depending on the scale of the project.

"Inner Worlds | Luis Laplace," 2023.
"Satisfaction: The Chief," 2014.

KV: Tell me about your publish schedule.

KM: We release three films a week. That's about 150, 160 films a year. Around 110 of those are submissions and 40 of them are commissions. We don't usually have screening fees, and really for us, the value comes in from the social media campaign and the editorial campaign that we put behind each film. Another great thing about NOWNESS is that the industry really is watching. It's a really good way to get your name out there, in front of the right eyes.

KV: At what point during production do you prefer a filmmaker to approach you?

KM:From about 70% [nearing completion] onwards.

I suppose what we're always looking for is a film that's doing something in a new way—a story we've never heard before, a story that’s told in a way we've never seen before. We always want that element of surprise and inspiration
—Katie Metcalfe
"GREYS," 2022.
"A Hue Named Blue," 2021.

KV: As a Commissioning Director, what do you look for in a story? What themes are most relevant to your viewers?

KM: I suppose what we're always looking for is a film that's doing something in a new way—a story we've never heard before, a story that’s told in a way we've never seen before. We always want that element of surprise and inspiration. We're always looking for documentaries that are “elevated,” so to speak. We want that extra layer of the filmmaking or storytelling to shine through, that just makes the piece feel different from everything else.

We’re also we're looking for films that have staying power, so they can be evergreen. The way we word it is “timeless yet timely.” So, we can put films out that do address current and relevant topics, but will still have an evergreen feel to them.

"Strength," 2019.
"Untaggable: How does #music move us?" 2016.

We don't tend to release or commission journalistic-style storytelling. It always has a very artful, cinematic lens, where the style is part of the narrative.

Character-driven documentaries always tend be a success; films that highlight someone who has a strong personality always do well —the sort of portrait of a place type of documentary that really immerses you in a community or a geographical place. That really resonates with our audience.

We see submissions from all over; we have a wide viewership in Brazil, for example, and Japan. Whenever we put a film out from either of those regions, it always does really well.

"We Came Here To Dance," 2021.

KV: How much does NOWNESS value high production standards?

KM: We're not afraid to get messy. We totally embrace lo-fi, as well as the idea that lo-fi is becoming the new luxury. We like to break away from that sort of slick highly produced type of filmmaking, and make work that feels a bit scrappier, messier and more urgent, raw and intimate. We often encourage filmmakers to bring some texture to their work by using mini DV footage or 8 millimeter footage.

"Ghetto Gastro," 2020.
"Ghetto Gastro," 2020.

KV: Is there a favorite project that you've worked on or pitch you’ve received?

KM: Some favorite films that come to mind are a film about Ghetto Gastro, the culinary collective based in the Bronx. It was directed by Berlin-based Alicia Smith Leverock. She was doing quite a lot of commercial work but she just really loved Jon Gray, the subject of the film, and it was shot in Venice. She made it very much in the style of Jon and Ghetto Gastro and his world, and she added in some VFX that just really elevated the film. We use that as a visual reference quite a lot.

There’s another film called Inner Worlds: Wayne McGregor that we made with Emile Rafael. It’s one of our Art Basel films, which looks at how artists live and work and how they inhabit their studio or space. This one featured Wayne McGregor in his studio in East London. And when Emile looked at it, it was this very chic, but very minimal space. So there wasn't a lot to film. It's not like going into the artist's studio where there's art everywhere. He had this idea to put Wayne in various different positions in the studio. The interview ends up feeling really dynamic.

When he first pitched it, I was like, oh, is that gonna feel a bit cheesy? You just don't really know, but the way he did it, it looked really interesting, and it showed off the building at the same time as seeing him. So we were just really impressed by that.

"Inner Worlds: Wayne McGregor," 2023.
"In Light," 2023.
Reveal something that maybe the viewer has never seen or heard before. That helps you make an emotional connection to the film: you're engaged with it and you're compelled to share it.
—Katie Metcalfe

KV: To end with more of a wider perspective: the landscape of online film is evolving continuously. From your purview, what does it take for a film to stand out, to reach a wider audience and touch people?

KM: I think the most important thing, these days, is that the film makes a strong emotional connection with the viewer. It's that process of, when you're interviewing your subject, or you're talking about the subject, it needs to really get to the grit in the oyster. It needs to find that rub where it's going to inspire, or it's going to really entertain, or it's going to be really insightful. Reveal something that maybe the viewer has never seen or heard before. That helps you make an emotional connection to the film: you're engaged with it and you're compelled to share it. And that’s really what we look for.

Have an idea for The Pitch? Send Kate a note directly!

Field Notes is edited by Melinda Thompson.

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