For every independent filmmaker, the dream and ultimate goal is to secure world wide distribution. But any TRUE independent…and I’m sorry, George Clooney I love you, you are not an independent filmmaker… but those of us who have to get creative to find funding in the first place will tell you that it’s an uphill battle from concept to completion.
This year, for the first time, we found ourselves in the right time and the right place with a feature film in the can and package ready for potential buyers. We had just experienced a very successful month on IndieFlix, a killer review from Cinema on the Rocks and two highly receptive screenings. American Film market was just days in front of us and we had done our homework. We had our one sheets, our synopsis, DVD copies and copies of our 18 band soundtrack in hand. But this was our first AFM, hell this was our first film market period. To say we were a bit doe-eyed would be an understatement. Because being ready and being prepared are not the same thing.
Luckily, the AFM is very helpful. They have a full page dedicated to who’s going to be there, what they are shopping and how to get into contact with them. They also have a full page dedicated to a first-timers “How to” guide. So early October we made our game plan and our hot sheet of companies we wanted to meet with and how to get a hold of them. We were told by a colleague that we didn’t need to purchase badges ($245 for one day or close to $1000 for the week) because all of the handshaking and deals happened on the main lobby that was free access to all. So we did not purchase a pass and just worked on making appointments.
We sent our meeting requests to 17 companies with two contacts each. We had responses from 5 companies and 12 people, and met with three.
Our first meeting was with After Dark Films. This is a company that specializes in genre film and has a high success rate for those films. We had chatted with them a bit before our meeting and then again that morning to confirm. They had only watched 1/2 of the film when we met, but they were excited about it which was reassuring. They were super excited about the 18 band angle, but we don’t have any A-list talent so they have to sift through the rest of the market and see what’s being pitched before any decisions can be made. At least a month, so we shake hands and move on to our next meeting.
Next up was Spotlight Pictures. Spotlight is not a distributor. They are a sales agent, the middle man that takes the film to the next market and launch the sales.They explained how this works, and talked to us about their process as a company. They currently have four James Franco films in their roster, so this is the sort of company you want representing you. Especially because they do what you can not: take your film all over the world and negotiate a sale. Another successful meeting but again, no deals are struck and it’s at least a month before they’ll know if they want to represent the film or not.
There was an un-official meeting with a documentarian and Home Video distribution from Germany. She took all of our information, noted our story and shared a coffee with us. She was very nice, but I’m still not sure what her angle was.
The next day was World Wide Entertainment. They are the company that picked up fellow NW Film “Divination” and took it to Red Box. This to us meant we were interested in their company because they’ve taken care of a filmmaker we know personally. That may seem like a silly reason to trust a company, but for us, personal relationships matter. Knowing that there’s a filmmaker in our home town that trusted them enough to take their film gives them a leg up on our trust scale.
The rest of the week was full of other meetings, orientation for our editor at IATSE and then a day of rest before we hit the road for our 19 hour drive home. The best thing about the insanity is that AFM is not unlike the networking events hosted by Seattle Film + Music. It’s not unlike the privately hosted screenings we’ve held for our films, or that other filmmakers have hosted for their own. AFM is one large social networking and hustling event. It’s intimidating, but manageable. And once you overcome the fear that you’re just an independent filmmaker you remember, so are they. Everyone is just trying their best to make movies and get them in front of an audience. And that is very reassuring.