First of all – what is the AFM?
The AFM is the ‘American Film Market’ – since 1991, it’s been held at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica the first week of November every year. It’s a sales market for the film industry – i.e. unlike Berlin, Cannes & Toronto it is not a festival.
The main focus of the AFM is for sales companies to meet with distributors and pitch projects – from scripts / packages to finished film screenings. It is also the last opportunity of the year for sellers to meet with buyers before they all break for Christmas – so they’re looking to sell the projects they have; as well as find that ‘gem’ to get ready for Sundance or Berlin.
Who attends the AFM?
- The sales agents set up offices within the Loews Hotel – the hotel rooms are ‘dressed’ to represent the company and their slate.
- Global distributors & sellers come to Los Angeles to meet – as well as using it as an opportunity to meet LA based producers / agents.
- If you have a movie with a sales agent, this is where you will see where the marketing spend has gone (depending on the stage of the project) the creation of materials i.e. one sheet posters; flyers and promos.
- The sales team set meetings with global distributors every half an hour from 9am until late.
- The acquisitions / development executives will take meetings with filmmakers – it’s an opportunity to catch up with those they know but more importantly to find new talent.
How should filmmakers work the AFM?
- Register with the official AFM site for a pass: one day or several days will enable access to the Loews Hotel; a guide of attendees; conferences / seminars and drinks events.
- Take it as an opportunity to network and get a feel for the industry – what’s selling; what are buyers responding to; where are budgets sitting (i.e. what the market will bear).
- Read the trades – before, during and after the market – ScreenDaily, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline – get a sense of the industry and what’s going on.
- NOTE: Sales companies will actively promote new projects with articles in the trades.
- You don’t need to have a movie in the market in order to attend – but you do need to be prepared to sell your slate to those with whom you meet.
- Take a look at the guide – which sellers represent the types of movie you are making; who are the people attending – find a name / contact the individuals (or their offices).
- Wait until the first weekend before trying to set meetings with the execs – the first few days of a market, they focus on selling the projects they already have & the diary will be full.
- Learn how to pitch your project – you are ‘selling’ yourself and your ability to make the movie – you have to hook them with your enthusiasm as well as convey that you can deliver.
- Do you have your own materials – script; business card; pitch package? If so, take them.
- NOTE: Ask if they want hard copy or email versions – busy executives will hand documents to their offices (where they get packed into a crate & shipped back to another office!)
Don’t be disheartened! It can look like a giant warehouse of hundreds of movie posters and be difficult to get a meeting … but remember, all the sellers, buyers and execs are looking for the NEXT BIG THING – which could be you!