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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 Saturday (Day 4). The Industry Badge Plus includes all conferences and the writers workshop. Buy your badge by October 11. 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:
STEP 6: Make More Appointments
During the first days of the AFM (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) 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 on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday 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:
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.
STEP 8: It’s Showtime!
Done with your homework? Made your appointments? Confident with your pitch? Materials ready? Great! Here are your priorities:
ADDITIONAL STEPS: Producers with a Finished Film
The steps above are for producers, filmmakers and writers with projects and scripts. If you have a completed film and are looking for global distribution, congratulations! Everything above generally applies but you will need to move-up the timetable:
MORE – LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
AFM’s Managing Director Jonathan Wolf discusses the power of the pitch with Pilar Alessandro, director of the screenwriting writing program On the Page. This contains great info for producers and writers. Listen now.
MORE – READ Advice for Filmmakers Trying to Navigate the Film Industry
Six areas of advice for filmmakers including “Know Thy Audience.” If this is the only thing you take away from reading this article it will have been worth it! Read now.
We can’t give you personal advice on how to pitch your project or film but we would like to know how this information worked for you. After the Market, please send your thoughts to AFM@ifta-online.org, Attention: Work the AFM Feedback.
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