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Day One at AFM:
I arrived shortly before 11AM and waited for my guest pass I had a hook up with a friend who was working the festival. At AFM all the hotel rooms are converted into screening rooms. I hung out in one of the screening rooms where a gentleman from Anchor Bay Canada was chilling. My friend introduced me and suggested I pitch him my film.
It was horrible. I was recovering from a cold. My chest was congested. My ears were congested and I drew an absolute blank! I flubbed the pitch like six times. Finally the guy said, sit down, take it easy. I finished a long and convoluted story. Ugh.
In the nutshell the guy said this: With no name actors in the film to market it, I’d have to rely on the exposure and positive granted the film by a decent film festival run. There’s still room for indies to find distribution in Canada but with the onslaught of films with big names attached, a good concept isn’t enough, unless it was a genre that works without names, like horror thriller.
TIP # 2
I stopped by the Quebec, Puerto Rico and Singapore film commissions to get info on tax incentives. With my film project Demigod (a dystopian South Beach Miami setting) and Deterrence Theory (an European setting) set as my next projects I wanted to learn more about how to leverage tax incentives to assist in budgeting larger films. I’m done with five-figure feature films. There are some amazing incentives that filmmakers looking to tackle bigger projects should learn more about, especially in Puerto Rico. As always, get references from other prodcos that have used those incentives.
I went browsing throughout AFM picking up literature and trade magazines with a friend. On a whim we stopped by Joker Films. Nice guy was there. He made films he described as hot girls getting murdered. I told him about my film, Resurrection of Serious Rogers where I have hot girls with guns who do the killing. He thought we had a good match.
It’s funny, I said about half of what I said during my Anchor Bay pitch and got a better response. Less is definitely more. If the person is interested he/she will ask more questions.
I told the gent from Joker Films that the film was still in post for sound. I showed him the trailer, on my iPhone, and he asked for a copy when the film was done. While I was there I ran into Adam Chapnick from Distribber. I met Adam on Twitter. Apparently the company is working on a VOD offer for filmmakers using their services. It could be a bit pricey, but it may be worth it if a film has some big name folks in there.
We stopped by to chat with the folks at Fabrication Films. This was a hookup meeting. A friend of the friend and all that. We made an appointment for Sunday.
We stopped by Showcase Films just to say hi and again I ran my verbal pitch for Serious Rogers, which by now was no more than 30 seconds long – hot girls with guns, think The Usual Suspects meets The Professional blah blah blah. I made an appointment to see him on Sunday.
By the way I have two appointments already scheduled for Sunday; one with a Tokyo production company and the other with a local distributor.
Took a shuttle to have lunch at the newly renovated Santa Monica Place mall. I had tacos. I would say I had puerco pibil, but I’d be lying (inside filmmaker joke there). I talked films, scripts, next projects and how things were progressing so far.
Back at the Santa Monica Loews Hotel I decided to go hang out at Roger Corman’s production company’s suite. Of course Mr. Corman wasn’t there, but his latest film, Sharktopus was there (I have a screener copy). I spoke with a very kind gentleman there. By the way, say what you want about Sharktopus but by the the time I’d gotten to the suite the film had already sold in territories throughout Europe and Japan!
Time to hang out at the Buyer’s Lounge. It was a cool lounge to which my Guest Pass got me access. Free Wi-Fi and computer terminals for use. No alcohol though. Unfortunately my Half Market Pass will not give me access to this lounge on Sunday through Wednesday. I’ll have to hang out in lobby.
Ran into the folks at Fabrication Films again. The incident went down something like this:
We ran into each other and somehow decided that we’d meet now instead of tomorrow. My friend suggested I show the trailer to Resurrection of Serious Rogers on my iPhone. I whipped it out. He started to watch the trailer and saw the character Trixie (Mercedes Manning) is clad in only bra and panties for most of the film. He said, Okay, I like half-naked women. Mind you, the gentleman was gay so he was speaking from a marketing standpoint. I said something like, Yeah and they’ve got guns too. He said something like, I like naked women but I like naked women with guns even better. My friend said, Oh yeah and the film stars Cooper Harris who was in the films Mega Piranha, Meteor Apocalypse and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
The guy’s eyes lit up.
He said: Really? Those films really do well overseas. Now I know how I can market the film.
He said to get him a copy of the film when we were done with post. He’d want all International rights (if he liked the finished film). That would leave me with US and Canada rights to sell.
I had a quick lesson on Chinese etiquette in professional circles. I met with a charming woman (a friend of a friend) at the American Consolate in Hong Kong. She regularly attends the Hong Kong FilmArt, which is kinda like AFM for Hong Kong. I pitched her Legend of Black Lotus. The pitch was short simple and to the point (I was getting better).
She grabbed the directory and found the suite number for a Honk Kong production company in the lower levels. It was cool, because the lower levels had smoking rooms. The woman, let’s call her Fay, went in and spoke with the gentleman first. A few seconds later she asked us to come in. The first thing I noticed was a huge poster of Chow Yun Fat on the wall for a 3D film the gentleman is in the middle of shooting.
Here’s how it went down:
We talked about the need for co-production arrangements when working with Hong Kong / PRC (People’s Republic of China) film commission. Hong Kong offers money of up to 30% of the film’s budget. China offers up to 50%. There are things like censorship, etc to deal with.
The gentlemen scrolled through fifty or so pictures for his film. The photos were on his iPad and consisted of beautiful costume designs and concept art. I knew my film was probably too small for him, considering he was spending $40M on the Chow Yun Fat film.
Here’s the interesting thing – because Fay had introduced me to him, I was accepted. I really don’t know how else to put it. Introductions mean everything in Asian countries. If I had just walked into his office to pitch my behavior would have been considered offensive and rude, and I would have been dismissed. Why, because he didn’t know me. But because Fay introduced me, I was accepted.
Let my clarify further. The gentleman said he had 20 years of production experience in Hong Kong. He would help me, at no cost, to navigate the Chinese censoring process, co-production process, and he would review my script to determine if there were any trouble spots that might slow the approval process. He even urged me to aim for distribution in China because the market expands every year. Here is a man who is sort of like the [good] Harvey Weinstein of Hong Kong, offering to help me, at no cost, because I was introduced to him.
The same thing happened with the next group I met from Hong Kong. A lovely woman named Angela (you bet we played with the similarities in our names) took me step by step through the process of how she could help me make Legend of Black Lotus, take me through the PRC approval process, provide production services, casting services (we talked up names like Ming Na, Michelle Yeoh and AngelaBaby). She said, she was very comfortable with the film’s budget too.
It was a great meeting. I’ll follow up with her tomorrow. Since I’m probably the only Black writer/director trying to make a film out of Hong Kong I’ll be easy to remember
Day Two: I get my Half Market Pass and me and the other pass holders descend on AFM — and all hell breaks loose!