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DAY Two at AFM
Day 2 of AFM started with a jaw-dropping, eye-opening orientation, led by Jonathan Wolf, the managing director of AFM.
I missed the first 15 mins of the orientation. When I arrived the discussion was on AFM vs film festivals. I’m paraphrasing here, but the advice offered involved using film festivals as a last resort to sell your film to a distributor. This differs drastically from the indie perspective where film festivals are often the primary way to expose the film and get it in front of buyers.
- buyers rely on media coverage to market your film to the audience. If you’ve already ran the gamut of film festivals, chances are the press has already offered its take on your film. they won’t do it again. so if you haven’t already sold rights to the film during or immediately after the festival run, it’s becomes a harder sell.
- media are not permitted at AFM. there is no press coverage on any of the films.
Some questions about transmedia came up, and while the speaker didn’t reject the notion of “audience building” it was obvious that his primary experience was with films that didn’t require or use transmedia/social media to be marketed.
LAter, there was an interesting analogy drawn between Tom Cruise and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Tom Cruise making $20M per film is not because he’s 20x better than a $1M actor, it’s because he comes with built-in marketing that has a interpreted value of $20M. People kinda sorta know what to expect when Tom Cruise is attached to a film.
Now, Jean-Claude Van Damme has an interpreted marketing value too. Obviously no one in his/her right mind would interpret JCVD’s value as $20M on a $100M film. BUT – because JCVD is well-known inside and outside of the US, seeing his name attached to a $2M film creates automatic or built-in marketing. You’ve got yourself a go movie!
That’s why genre films are generally an easier sell. Slasher films don’t need names. Horror films don’tneed names. Gang / gangland / mafia / organized crime films don’t need names. Creature feature films don’t need names.
Then, strategy for indie producers and creatives times were discussed. The goal was: how to make the best use of your time at AFM. And I have some personal opinions to offer here.
Research, research, research. Would you pitch a black or latino urban gang film to a Tokyo distributor? Nah. Why not. Because it’s not exactly relatable, unless you have a name attached like Ice Cube. We were given a ton of information about each individual distributor and/or production company. That information is necessary to determine if your film project or completed film is a good match. Simple as that.
The Fog (Special Edition)
However, when the orientation ended, folks descended on the companies like The Fog. I knew for a fact that many hadn’t prepared lists of who might be good prospects for their film/film projects because I learned first-hand that companies that were only at AFM to sell, were being inundated with drop-bys.No, no, no! Became the word of the day.
Instead of hitting the hallways, I opted to take the new information, go offline and revise my strategy. Granted, I was lucky enough to have done most of my research well in advance. I cast a net far and wide before AFM (thanks to help!) and those who bit were added to my schedule before AFM even started.
But there is an element of spontaneity that works, too. The halls are plastered with posters. Joey Lawrence is in a film called The Hit List (another I’m dating a spy, movie). So, if that company is selling this film it might also be interested in a film that’s similar. You walk the halls, spot the poster, realize that Resurrection of Serious Rogers is a similar film, and you pop in.
I retreated to the pool area with my Facebook friend and now filmmaker friend Karina Colon of Maybelline Girls. We both realized that it was time to fine-tune our strategies based on the new information from the orientation.
I already had three appointments scheduled for that day, but my goal was to take advantage of spontaneity (see above) and do a few carefully researched drop-bys (as they say on Seinfeld).
We chatted it up, exchanging some of the amazing and incredible stories you’ll only hear from filmmakers and my Twitter friend,@BlackCoffeeFilm, Sanda Ann Miller, dropped by. This was the first time I’d met both Karina and Sandra, but I still swear that I’ve met Sandra before.
As she said, the film community is quite incestuous, so we’ve planned to outline our historical documents the next time we meet to see when and where we may have crossed paths in the past.
That day was slow and uneventful and my head had started to pound. The congestion in my head, ears and chest was becoming troublesome. It was like my cold was coming back.
Karina had a friend of a friend in one of the rooms so we went to meet him after scouting the area more. We met the dood and she was able to leave a copy of her film, The Maybelline Girls, which I heard was invited to the Anaheim Film Festival earlier this year.
Karina’s first pitch was a helluva lot better than my first pitch!
In all fairness, she has an edge. It kinda helps when you look like she does and you walk into the room and the guy’s eyes go, “Yummy!” Little did I know that I would be able to use that to my advantage.
Time for my appointment with the Tokyo production company. Popped in, observed Asian etiquette during the exchange of business cards (although the representative was Caucasian), and launched my MacBook with the trailer for Resurrection of Serious Rogers. Guess what? Freaking QuickTime friggin’ failed me again! WTF!
I popped the trailer vid in VLC and iTunes and it ran well. Whew. Did my little spiel. Learned a few things. The company is most definitely open to co-production deals as opposed to merely investmenting into films. With that little tidbit of knowledge I asked, if there were additional expenses for Resurrection of Serious Rogers, would you be able to help with them in exchange for co-production credit and percentages. She said, It’s very possible.
So, with the idea of a co-production arrangement possible I launched into my spiel for Legend of Black Lotus, my epic fantasy martial-arts love story in the vein of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragonmeets Mulan (live action version from the People’s Republic of China,[PRC])
Watching Lie to Me (my favorite show) has helped me to pay closer attention to body language when I speak to someone. I know, who woulda thunk it, right? Well, as I wrapped up my pitch I spotted a distinct change in body position.
She leans forward slightly. Uncrosses arms. Direct eye contact. Looks for something to do with hands to disguise interest.
Nice. Then the conversation intensified:
Do you have a trailer for Legend of Black Lotus?
No, it’s at the script stage. I have strong co-production interest out of Belgium for up to 50% of the financing depending on budget and terms.
Well, Black Lotus is definitely something we’d be interested in. We co-produced a similar film and it did very well.
That’s great. I can get you a propspectus with a budget by tomorrow. Will a budget top-sheet be enough?
That’s perfect. I’m returning to Tokyo Monday evening, so please give me a few days to settle in, sort things out and speak to my people. If you have any questions, or if there’s anything else you want us to do, please send me an email.
I was out of there and feeling very happy despite the headache that wouldn’t go away. But, across the hall, one of the other representatives from an Asian production company spotted Karina who was waiting for me. So, naturally he sees a good looking woman waiting alone in the hall and lucky for me he takes a shot.
Karina ended up chatting with him about his production, UltraMan and telling him a little about my projects. Guess what? Now I have a tentative meet-n-greet with him. Nice. Remember what I said in the Day 1 blog post about how a personal introduction always beats even the most charming of pitches.
I got a text from John Paul Rice of No Restrictions Entertainment and I went to meet him in the lobby. There we ran into Sheri Candler. I met both John and Sheri on Twitter earlier this year.
Karina caught up with us and I hear she’s going to be reading for a part in John’s next film. How cool is that?!
I had to jet to make my next appointment so I missed meeting Mike Merrell (of Twitter) for the first time. Turned out the folks I was going to meet were still in a meeting, so I went to get introduced to the folks at Epic. Nice guy but he was super busy and suggested I come back on Tuesday.
I left because I had to make it home for my daughter’s birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, which was an event in and of itself.
I’m taking Monday off to recuperate and hopefully I will feel better.
Tuesday I have nine appointments. There won’t be much room for spontaneity, but lots of room for success and good news!
NEXT: DAY THREE – I get sick and take a day off. Good thing. My Day three was amazing.