Using a Series or Pilot to gain investment

So, you’re a creative with a burning idea for a new LBTQ series and you want to know how to get it funded? Maybe you’ve even made a pilot episode or mini-series to show to investors in the hopes of getting your story out on mainstream platforms? 

If that sounds like you then I’m here to give you the run-down of all the things to consider before you get started and to look at the steps you can take in order to impress the elusive industry gatekeepers. 

What are investors looking for?

The first thing to consider is what investors are looking for, and it should be no surprise that the number one thing investors want to see is a financial return. They are looking for projects where the waterfall will offer the greatest chance of a return on investment, and in the shortest time possible. Therefore, you’ve got to know your numbers! 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at your first steps:

1. Get your pilot onto platforms who will be willing to share detailed viewer data. You need to know number of views and territories (where your views are coming from). You can then use these initial numbers to create a forecast for your full series.  

2. Keep a record of any marketing spend you make and the return, i.e. £50 of social ads resulted in 500 visits and 100 rentals. Again, you can then add that to your forecast. 

3.Build a relationship with distribution platforms with your mini-series or pilot. That way you can show investors that you have distribution options ready to go which removes a lot of the uncertainty around distribution and finding an audience. 

Should I put my Pilot on YouTube?

 YouTube is of course a popular option for getting your work out there, but does it help you secure funding for your bigger project? The big downside to YouTube is that it isn’t a paying audience. Therefore, an investor will not value these numbers as proof of a return investment. It’s not all bad news though, YouTube is a great tool for marketing. For instance, if you put a trailer or teaser on YouTube and include a link to the paid video, the click-through rate is high. Yes, YouTube is a great sales convertor! 

Although few and far between, there are some rare projects where a YouTube release has resulted in distribution: 

  1. Carmilla Series – This short Canadian web series eventually got a movie deal. But it wasn’t easy. It took three years, four seasons, and became a reality, not because of the YouTube views, but because the creators had cultivated a fandom army called ‘Creampuffs’ who paid in advance for digital copies of the movie (making up one third of the overall budget).
  2. Anne+ – A Dutch drama series, was initially released on YouTube and largely crowdfunded for two seasons before UK Broadcaster Channel 4 bought the rights to it to stream it on Walter Presents. This may have just been luck, or a case of good timing. Maybe they released the show when Walter Presents were on the lookout for a foreign language LGBT series, or maybe like Carmella, they had a strong fanbase that got the word out. We’ll never know the details but it is a fantastic show and highly deserving of the mainstream attention (if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!).

While the above examples are encouraging, their mainstream success is not common. There are many, many examples of excellent series which have released on YouTube, had millions of views, and are still having to use Crowdfunding to finance their series e.g. Red series, The Fortnight, Twenty.  

 What if I can’t afford to make a pilot?

Making your own pilot episode or mini-series can take some serious cash and is not an option for every creative. Don’t let that stop you though, there is a cheaper way to get your idea out there that investors love! Instead of making a full episode of your show, why not make a sizzle reel? A sizzle reel is typically a five-minute visual teaser for your project, it should show off the story’s main plot points, directorial style and introduce the main characters. It’s not the same as a marketing trailer but more of a concise visualiasation of the narrative.  

It’s something that you can shoot yourself or compose from stock footage as long as you edit it well. It can be used to bring on a team of filmmakers/talent to help bring the project to life, show to your potential audience in order to kickstart a crowdfunding campaign, or it can be shown directly to producers and investors – something visual to accompany your pitch.  

Investors and producers are always short on time and that’s where a sizzle reel can play into your favour, they may be more willing to commit to five minutes of watch time rather than a full episode.

Go forth and create!

 So that’s it, I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what it takes to gain investment for your series and all of the options that there are to get your story out there to the right people. You now know what data investors are looking for, how to best use YouTube to build an audience and what to do if you don’t have the finances to make your pilot yet.  

There’s certainly no easy path to get your story out there, but one thing that I have learned from working with Lesflicks is that it’s absolutely worth all of the trials and tribulations, because once you get your work out, you will have a very grateful and loyal audience who are passionate about what you do and overjoyed to see queer womxn represented on screen! 


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Looking for inspiration? Why not check out the amazing queer women’s content we have to offer at LesFlicks.

A host of feature and short films and webseries all available to watch now with more getting added all the time! Join now for a free trial and watch our full library of 100% Lesbian & Bisexual content!

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Jen Johnstone

Jen Johnstone

Reviewer, Writer and Community Champion

Jen is a Scottish screenwriter and videographer. She is passionate about bringing the LBTQ+ community together through film and makes a point of championing LBTQ+ talent.