Some tips for Indies going into this year’s American Film Market in Santa Monica
I am excited that today is the first day of November, and the opening of this year’s American Film Market in Santa Monica. Now, a quick disclaimer, I am not at AFM this week, but know this market well. Moreover, I have had conversations with my distribution contact recently, and narrowed down a few tips for indie filmmakers to consider while attending.
SCREENER OR NO SCREENER
For the most part, Indie Filmmakers with completed projects are attending this year’s American Film Market with one goal in mind – FIND DISTRIBUTION! Most of you who have finished film projects will be armed with backpacks full of DVDs or Blu-Rays, with slick cover art and shiny packaging. Now, as much as I can appreciate that, I regret to inform you that it makes very little impact on your overall strategy. In fact, handing out a screener to a person at one of these events can work against you. Allow me to explain.
In today’s fast-paced networking environment, physical screeners are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Most of the production and sales contacts I have spoken to have acknowledged that getting handed a DVD is one of the most irritating things a filmmaker can do. Moreover, its very likely that your screener will get lost at some point during the event and won’t even be screened.
THERE’S A BETTER WAY
As a person who gets allot of things submitted to me, I can say that the best way to make an impact is to make as little physical impact on the person you are submitting to. Think about it. The human brain can only compute so much data. These events are sensory overload.
Say you’re the distributor, or sales company, and you have a booth. All day long, you have thousands of people coming at you with stuff. And for the most part its “Watch my movie! Watch my MOVIE!” The last thing you want is to be bogged down further with physical material while your brain is trying to process the mountains of conversations you’ve already had throughout the day.
In fact, when someone respects my time and energy, I remember them even more. Moreover, I think that I remember most of the people I meet based on the conversation I had with them, rather than the item he or she handed me.
So the punchline in all this – Use digital screeners!
KNOWING THE DANCE
I look at distribution the same way I think about dating.
- You never want to come off too anxious on the first date.
- Be patient with the prospected distributor, and expect them to be patient with you.
- Only highlight the value and benefit of your film or project, and don’t delude the conversation with small talk.
- The only goal at the end of each date is to establish another date.
My suggestion to filmmakers is to think of the following:
- Look sharp – Dress your best and be professional
- Be short and to the point. Have your pitch summed up to three sentences. Deliver your pitch and shut up. Don’t take up too much of their time.
- Have poster art, a teaser and/or trailer loaded on a tablet or phone that you can show them quickly
- Rather than giving them a business card, get their contact and send them an email right away outlining the conversation you just had, and your project.
- Ask for a follow-up meeting if they are remotely interested.
- If they wish to see the movie, send them a secure digital screener link immediately. Make sure your film is water-marked with a logo or ID before you upload it.
Most of the work should happen before meeting with a distributor or production company at AFM. I suggest you doing some homework on companies that work with the same types of projects you are pitching.
For example: If you have a horror script or completed horror movie, find companies that specialize in that genre. Don’t waste your time pitching to companies that do documentaries or comedies. And assume nothing.
Another note is knowing your space. Understand the budget level of your project. Aim for companies that do films of the same budget nature.
For Example: If this is your first feature and your budget was arounf $50k, (unless you have super powers) Universal, Disney or Sony will most likely not be interested. Focus on companies that do your level of film, and service the same genre that your work is dedicated.
A FINAL THOUGHT
DO NOT sign any contract at the American Film Market without legal representation by your side. One of the biggest mistakes young filmmakers make at these events is getting too excited and signing a fast deal over the table from a distributor. Again, be patient and make sure you vet the agreement with a legal professional that knows film distribution. Failure to heed this warning can cause catastrophic failure to your film project.
OH BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
I’m also offering something that I’ve never done before. If you leave a Amazon review for the four movies I have listed below, I’ll give you one hour of FREE filmmaking consultation. All you have to do is send me a screen shot of the reviews and we will schedule an appointment. I can meet in person at our studio, or do a consult by phone. It’s totally worth the 15 minutes to write four quick reviews.
Here are the links for my movies needing your reviews:
TERRITORY 8 – APOCALYPSE AMERICA
YOU PEOPLE – A NOT SO BLACK COMEDY
DAD’s VIETNAM – THE WAR EXPERIENCE OF GREG SCHWARZE
Hope you have a great week!
Indie Film Factory, LLC
Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy © Nominated filmmaker who has written directed and produced 6 feature films, dozens of music vides and commercials, and has owned successful media companies in Las Vegas.
Kelly also does one-on-one consulting for filmmakers. Click here for more details.
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