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American Film Market 2017 – Insider Tips!

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By Editor-In-Chief:  SCOTT A. CAPESTANY

One of North America’s most high-profile international film markets will again arrive November 1-8 along the beautiful shores of the Santa Monica Beachfront.

Since 1991, the American Film Market (AFM) will again bring together over 8000+ industry professionals from 80+ countries around the globe to their host location SANTA MONICA LOEWS HOTEL at 1700 Ocean Avenue.  With 2,000+ new films & projects, 1,000+ production companies, 700+ screenings, 400+ distributors, 100+ speakers and over $1 billion in deals closed every year, the AFM will be ground zero for Hollywood deal-making heading into the Fall.

AFM 2017

The AFM will also be screening a record 400+ films this year for buyers throughout 15 theaters in Santa Monica including nine HD screening rooms at multiple surrounding hotels whom all are seeking some form of distribution.

Aside from the impressive line-up of panels, conferences, networking mixers and private events throughout the week-long odyssey of the AFM, I’ve always been impressed with  how both the AFM and the SANTA MONICA LOEWS staff interface and treat attendees with class.

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The Loews Santa Monica Hotel – Courtesy of hotel website

Which leads to our #MediaIncMag first TIP #1: 

Respect the AFM and host hotel staff.  Many have been working this event for multiple years.  The valet, front desk, concierge and restaurant staff are at the top of their game.  There’s a old saying “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

One of the biggest mistakes that producers can make (new and seasoned) is failing to treat film market staff and host property employees with dignity and respect.  Professional patience will be your strong suit beginning at check-in at the AFM.  Arriving early to pick up your badges is always a good idea.

Credential Hours:

9:00am – 6:00pm:       October 30 –  October 31
8:30am – 6:30pm:       November 1 – November 4
9:00am – 6:00pm:       November 5 – 8

If you are well prepared and examine our tips outlined here, there will be no need to rush people and treat those helping with the event poorly.

TIP #2: Download both the AFM and CINANDO App.  These two digital tools will be some of your most valuable assets at AFM.   They will enhance your entire experience 10 fold.   Media Inc Magazine has partnered with CINANDO at both this years AFM and Sundance 2018 to help filmmakers access the best and most current industry information.  This year, every AFM badge holder will receive a FREE one-year subscription to Cinando!

Cinando

This helpful international online networking tool and festival database will up your game exponentially.  The resource guide will give you contacts, films, projects in development, market screening schedules, market attendees and more!

GET YOUR PITCH ON!  I had the honor of being selected a handful of years ago to “pitch” one of my own feature film projects to a massive ball room full of international press and over 500+ industry professionals.   Around 15 or so were selected from around the world representing around 7-8 countries.

During our presentations, we each were given 3 minutes to pitch our project and get feedback from panelists Cassian Elwes and Torbin Armbrust of Virgin Produced.

CASSIAN ELWES, whose epic career as a producer in independent film has spanned decades. Hollywood Reporter once said that he was “involved in a virtual who’s who of every great independent film of the last ten years”.

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Producer Cassian Elwes – Expert in Financing and Distribution 2016 AFM

As an expert in financing and distribution at William Morris Independent, Elwes helped Shepard over 280 films during his tenure at WMI from 1994-2009.  Since his departure, he has been involved in over 30 films including some of Indy films most high profile productions in the last handful of years including ‘Mudbound’ which sold to Netflix at Sundance earlier this last year for a record $12.5M and will open the AFI Fest November 9th at the historic TCL Chinese Theater.

Elwes helpful comments and insight following my pitch ignited my project with genuine and powerful inspirational words from someone whom I consider a legend in the Indie Film game.  Moments after I walked off the stage, I was approached by a number of financiers and buyers on the floor surrounding me interested in helping guide my endeavor.

Moderating the Pitch conference again this year is one of the industry’s leading experts in the “Art of the Pitch”, Pilar Alessandra from ON THE PAGE.  As a trusted industry colleague and “go to person” for screenplay consulting to some of the biggest names in the literary community, her workshops are packed with very helpful industry insider intel that’s sure to help tighten up your pitch decks and IP.  This conference is earmarked my #MediaIncMag as a must attend.

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AFM Pitch conference – (L-R) Producers Torbin Armbrust, Cassian Elwes and Moderator Pilar Alessandra. (pitch finalist far right unknown) Photo courtesy of AFM

Strategy + Cost   The AFM is well worth the registration fees and highly recommend to go ALL IN for the best All-Access badge you can afford. We recommend the Industry Plus badge if you are on a budget.  If you have the budget, highly recommend not going cheap and get the Executive Plus badge for the entire event.

Click here for Registration badges.

There are a number of strategies to make your AFM experience effective, however these additional inside tips could really help you move your career needle in the right direction.

  1. Dress to impress  – Being presentable is 90% of the first 30 seconds in meeting a decision maker.  the other 10% is your timing.  Over the years I’ve seen numerous industry folks make the mistake of treating this market as a casual conference.  Showing up in inappropriate attire, shabby sneakers and jeans.   What seems to be the appropriate wardrobe standard are sport coat + pressed dress shirt (no tie required) for men and modest professional ensemble for women.
  2. Tech – Remember this is a deal-making week and it’s well into the 21st century.  Hundreds of deals are done at the AFM each year.  A great app to add to your quiver of digital tools when entering the deal making phase of your meetings is DOCU-SIGN (Free APP + free for 30 days as of this publication).  You can have your NDA’s loaded and other documents at your finger tips to e-send and receive e-signatures.    Suggest bringing your fully charged + power laptop and/or tablet loaded with all your digital materials, pitch decks, etc.  to present instantly and professionally when discussing your project.               (** always consult with your Lawyer on contracts ** )
  3. Professional updated resume –  Make sure you have an updated IMDB pro page and Linked IN pages.
  4. Research – When you arrive at AFM, be current and up to speed  on what’s trending in the industry feeds, news and channels.  When laying out your master plan for AFM, you will want to do your due diligence with every person + company you plan on meeting.  Arrive well-informed with digital VOD distribution trends (it’s 95%+ of what’s being talked about) and sharpen up on the plethora of other industry insider intel available online.  Follow AFM on TWITTER and download their handy APP.
  5. Social Media – Who you follow, are followed by, post and engage with defines much of who you are as a professional and often times as a person.  Update your LINKED IN profile to reflect your current projects and recommendations from other industry colleagues. A well versed industry expert in the social media space within the entertainment space is STAGE 32 CEO RB Botto (See below).  Highly recommend joining the Stage 32 social media community (It’s FREE) and diving into the plethra of well written and insightful blogs + podcasts on the industry including great wisdom on effective social media skills when interacting with industry professionals.  He’s a GURU on the topics of crowdfunding in which he’s launching his new book at #AFM2017 and is an extraordinarily gifted professional writer himself.
  6. Meetings – With over 400 production + distribution companies having offices set up throughout the hotel, be sure you research which ones would be a good fit for your project. Research them and find out their slate + mission statements. Especially who their executives and decision makers are.   These are the men and women in acquisitions, development and production.  See what they are doing in the industry trades as well.  TIP: Google + IMDB  is your primary source and best tools.  Narrow it down to around 25-45 companies to reach out to. Always be on time and be prepared to be “bumped” or moved to another time slot last-minute.  Selling comes before buying at this market so don’t take it personal. TIP: Your objective with your meetings is not to SELL your project, but to schedule a second meeting.
  7. Tools – Utilize the AFM and Cinando APPs strategically.  Recommend being clever and professional when reaching out to companies while never sending them IP electronically (scripts, pitch decks, etc.) unless they request it in a reply.  Always consult your lawyer when sharing IP.  Both They are FREE downloads on both Google play Apple store.
  8. Legal – Email your entertainment lawyer with your schedule of meetings.  Make sure they are up to speed with what projects you will be presenting, pitching, etc.  Decision makers will generally ask who your lawyer is if they are interested in your project/s.  So prepare them with a simple outline of your weeks activities and if they are available at odd times.  Remember, this is a “deal making” market with people working from very early in the mornings to very late throughout the week.
  9. Your PITCH – Strongly suggest you hire a consulting producer that knows the AFM’s terrain (if you are a newcomer) that can help you and your team present your project to industry decision makers.   This will do wonders for your projects if you are not a seasoned and gifted salesperson or know how the business mechanics of the industry work.  TIP: Two great sources we can recommend if you want to have a go at it yourself is learning more on the “Art of the Pitch” (prior to your arrival) from two of the industry’s TOP pitch consultants I’ve personally worked with.  Stephanie Palmer from GOOD IN A ROOM and this years AFM pitch conference moderator Pilar Alessandra from ONE THE PAGE.  Both women are wizards in the realm of pitching!
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Pilar Alessandra – ON THE PAGE

Final TIP:  For those of you wanting to up your film finance game from an industy insider, you’ll want to attend the FINANCE CONFERENCE II.  Hosted by an industry pro whom I highly respect and always enjoy learning from – RB Botto.  CEO and Founder of Stage 32.  He will be chopping it up with seasoned producers eager to share ‘insider intel’ on how how to stretch budgets and get films made using creative financing.

Date: Novemeber 5, 2017 Time: 9:15am-12:45pmLocation: Starlight Ballroom; Fairmont Hotel 

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RB Botto – CEO of Stage 32

Visit AMERICAN FILM MARKET (AFM)

Follow them on Twitter  –@AFMOfficial 

We will be reporting LIVE throughout the entire market this year via our TWITTER! @MediaIncMag

Follow us to receive insider TIPS on ways to enhance your experience.

 

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