American Film Market 2019

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Hey there, indie filmmaker, is AFM for you? It can be.

First, film markets are not film festivals. Festivals and Markets are very different and it’s important to know the differences.

Film Festivals are about glitz, fluff, and awards with the hope of being discovered or getting that killer distribution deal. Ah, “Hope springs eternal.” But, yes it does happen for a chosen few.

Film Festivals are expensive, social functions and parties with screenings, cocktails, speeches, awards, and networking. They’re a part of the film art world.

Whereas, Film Markets are all about BUSINESS—Money, Pre-Selling, Financing, Profiting and Industry Networking.

Second, the American Film Market is mostly an insider, working professionals market. It works best for industry professionals who know each other or have definitive credentials and then they get the preferred meetings. But, there is room for the indie guy who does his homework.

Here is the advice of the Managing Director of The American Film Market (AFM), Jonathan Wolf.

How to Work the AFM …

Here are the steps to successfully work the market:
STEP 1: Homework: Create a List of Target Companies
STEP 2: More Homework: Create a List of Target Executives
STEP 3: Start Scheduling Meetings
STEP 4: Prioritize Your Target List
STEP 5: Work on Your Pitch
STEP 6: Make More Appointments
STEP 7: Prepare Materials
STEP 8: Work The Show Before You Go
STEP 9: It’s Showtime!

Now, let’s not get too excited. The big dogs; Sony, Lionsgate and others may be there, but they aren’t there to see you. That’s why it’s so important to investigate who is going to be there and email them ahead of time letting them know what you have. Have them self-select before you get there. Then you can spend your valuable time with potential buyers, sales agents, co-producers, or executive producers.

There’s a list of all of the attendees on the AFM site. Once you’ve signed up you can get their contact information before the festival and start your search.

On the 5th night of AFM 2019, I took advantage of Legacy’s 6th Annual Film Market Party at Senator Jones bar on Wilshire Blvd. If you’ve got a market badge you can get in free. Without the badge it was $20 to $250 to get in depending on your business there. Speaking of business, last year 6 films were picked up by international distributors at that event. The hors d’oeuvres were tasty and plentiful and there were filmmakers from around the world, but mostly from LA.

Part of the party was the premiere of seven film trailers of recently completed or almost completed films. I ran into one of the executive producers of a locally made low budget comedy. I asked him if he was trying to sell his film at AFM. He said, “I’d like to but I don’t have $5,000 left over to get in.” I said, “Dude! Whatcha talking about? It’s $295 for a day pass. ($249 if he’d have caught the early bird special) You should spend Monday researching what buyers and sales agents are going to be there, buy your ticket, and spend the day there Tuesday. You can hit all of the booths that have buyers or reps that deal with your kind of film.” He was blown away that you can approach AFM so cheaply.

Of course, that is the cheapest way. You could get an Industry Badge, four days with various special accesses for $495 (early bird = $445). The Industry Plus Badge for $695 (early bird $645) gets you many more privileges in those same four days. More time to make more connections with buyers and the various film industry movers and shakers.

If you want to attend the entire market there’s the Executive Badge, the Executive Plus Badge, and the Platinum Badge at $945, $1,145, and $1,545 respectively—All with early bird specials. As the price grows so do the privileges.

If you’ve spent a lot of money on your indie masterpiece and you’ve got something left in the kitty, you may want to consider exhibiting your film. Now we’re talking thousands, but there’s a range. It costs $3,500 for the exhibition fee, and between $10,000 – $100,000 to secure floor space at the market.

Of course, $100,000 is a bit much for most indie filmmakers … but $3,500 for the exhibition fee and $10,000 for some booth space—If your film has potential and you haven’t 2nd mortgaged the house yet, that’s doable!

If you do go and you go for more than one day and can find some spare time, there are other things to do.

There are screenings for buyers but most are open to all attendees.

There are multiple conferences on many important aspects of the industry led by industry experts and decision makers.

Representatives from film commission, facilities, and government agencies from around the world were there. AFM has open roundtable discussions that explore industry topics with thought leaders and working experts.

There are writers’ workshops where writers go over a multitude of insider writing concepts that will help them create compelling screenplays that will catch the eye of studios, investors, and global audiences.

If you are a filmmaker looking for work and networking opportunities it is a gold mine of active industry contacts and potential. And of course, as I mentioned before, there’s real business with real players of the industry there to help you get to your next step for your project. They come from all walks of the industry and you will be able to make serious contacts that could be invaluable. You can have more bites of the apple than most anywhere else.

Some people try festivals to get their films noticed and distributed and that has potential, but it isn’t that cheap either if you get in. And quite frankly, your chances of getting picked up or funding is much greater at AFM.

I talked with many people who sealed the deal or who were “in talks.” I know of one producer who signed a deal with a sales agent to represent four of his films in development. The producer was in the process of getting attention and funding for his slate. The sales agent signed a deal with him to market and distribute all of the films and to be an executive producer. The agent is going to help look for 1st in funding. He already had access to 2nd in matching funds.

The rubber really meets the road with finished films looking for distribution. I saw a lot of struggling and ecstatic filmmakers looking and making deals.

They say, in just eight days, more than US $1 billion in deals were sealed — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production.

Why not you?

Remember, do your homework and you’ll at least have a viable shot.