The American Film Market is a great place to find partners and pitch projects and films – if you have a plan. Use these steps to increase your chances of success.
If you have a project or script, the most effective use of your time and money is to purchase an AFM Industry Badge or Industry Badge Plus which allow access to all offices, booths and most screenings beginning on Wednesday (Day 2). The Industry Badge Plus includes all conferences and the writers workshop. Buy your badge by October 9. After that date, the fees go up.
STEP 1: Homework: Create a List of Target Companies
Over 400 production / distribution companies have offices at the AFM but not all are right for your film. Focus your time and effort on the companies that are best suited for your project.
Starting about one month before the AFM, go to The Film Catalogue. Most AFM companies list their projects, profile and staff contact information. Do further research on the web. Find the companies that are the best candidates for your film.
Once you have created a target list, if there are less than 10, you’re being too picky. [“No distributor is right for MY film!”] If there are 100 or more, your homework grade is “incomplete.” Keep working. A good target list for most projects is 30 – 40 companies.
STEP 2: More Homework: Create a List of Target Executives
For each of your target companies, identify the key executives, especially those in charge of acquisitions, development and production. Look for their names in the trades and on company websites. If you can’t find the right names, call the company’s main office and ask.
Finding out who’s who is critical. You will never get anywhere by walking into an office unprepared and saying: “Hi, who is your head of acquisitions? I’d like to meet with him… or her.”
STEP 3: Start Scheduling Meetings
Most companies begin setting their meeting schedule three or four weeks before the market. The best way to contact them is to send a short, personalized email. After a few days, follow-up by phone.
STEP 4: Prioritize Your Target List
Separate your list into two groups: companies with an office in the city where you live and those from everywhere else. Focus first on the companies that are not based where you live. If you are unable to meet with a company from your home city during the AFM, you can always follow-up with them after the Market. Use other factors (i.e. the budgets, genres of the company’s AFM lineup, etc.) to create A and B lists with 20 to 30 companies on each list. This will help prioritize your time near the end of Market.
STEP 5: Work on Your Pitch
A good pitch can get a bad project made and a bad pitch can leave a terrific project languishing on the shelf. Pitching is part art (it’s a creative process), part science (pitches need to be organized and follow a tight script) and part salesmanship. There are many resources on pitching, so our short advice is:
- If you are madly, deeply in love with your project, if it’s your only child and the AFM is its first day of school, get someone else to do the pitch. Pitching it yourself will likely convince people that YOU love the project but it probably won’t do much more.
- In the pitch meeting, remember that YOU are being evaluated along with your project. When a company commits to your project, they are also committing to work with you.
- Your mission during each pitch meeting isn’t to sell your project. You won’t get a deal in one brief meeting. Your mission is simply: Get the second meeting!
- Consider attending the Pitch Conference Saturday morning.
STEP 6: Make More Appointments
During the first two days of the AFM call each target company’s AFM office that didn’t respond to your email or first call. Request a 10-minute meeting with the key executive you identified in Step 2. AFM office phone numbers are listed in the AFM Show Directory. Ask for a meeting later in the market as most companies will be too busy during the first few days. For companies that won’t set a meeting (prepare yourself – there will be many), see Step 8 below.
STEP 7: Prepare Materials
Here are some thoughts on what to leave behind after every meeting:
- Your business card. Bring a large supply
- Your biography and those of all producers attached to the project
- A synopsis
- A summary of the film’s unique creative and financial attributes. This could include a list of all people attached or committed to the project, a budget abstract (that’s less than half a page), any rights that aren’t available, investors that are committed, production incentives that you know the film can utilize, etc.
- If the script is done, bring one or two copies with you but don’t leave it behind without first consulting with your attorney.
These are just our suggestions – every film and situation is different. Be prepared, but don’t bring copies of letters or documents that “prove” anything. It’s too soon for that.