Pitching At AFM – Don’t Be Shutout

Posted by
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


The American Film Market was founded in 1981 to circumvent the stranglehold big studios had on marketing and distribution, especially in foreign markets. The answer has been to sell distribution rights directly to independent sales agents, brokers, and distributors. The market also facilitates financing by bringing together filmmakers, products, and financial sources.

In early November, nearly a billion dollars of production and distribution deals are sealed yearly on films in every stage of development, pre-production, and production. The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is converted into a busy marketplace. Some 700 screenings are held at various theaters on the Santa Monica Promenade and nearby hotel screening rooms. With 8,000 attendees and the industry’s largest conferences, AFM is the destination for independent filmmakers and industry people.

Last year’s AFM Conference Series included discussions on financing, pitching, production, and marketing and distribution. They also focused on crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing audiences, film festivals, and video on demand. In this article, I will focus on the pitch conference and pitch sessions. Pitching your project is the initial step in getting a project rolling, obtaining finance, gathering a production team, and marketing and selling the film to sales agents, brokers, and distributors. All these steps require some pitching activity. Thus, knowing and perfecting solid techniques is vital to the success of any project.

Getting your script read in Hollywood is difficult. Most agents, producers, and studios will not accept unsolicited work. One must stir up enough buzz to wake up the industry, and by making pitches to anyone and everyone, you create awareness. This way, you make a water-cooler talk-ability that gets you referrals, opens doors, and obtains those face-to-face meetings. Screenwriting is a very competitive profession, and being able to pitch your script effectively places you above the rank and file. It’s estimated that the Writers Guild of America registered over 100,000 entities, and the MPPA rated 708 movies in 2014. Thus, being able to rise above the competition and mingle with the 1,670 AFM buyers from 70 counties greatly ups your odds.

A pitch conference is a good place to learn about this process. They say a good pitch can get a bad film made, and a bad pitch can leave a terrific project languishing on the shelf. At this conference, attendees learn the essential rules and tools of pitching from experts. These experts included Stephanie Palmer, former head of creative affairs at MGM, Tobin Armbrust, producer of “Begin Again,” and Cassian Elwes, producer of “Dallas Buyers Club.”

I’ve included suggestions and tips provided by these experts, along with those referenced in articles they wrote. The goal of your pitch is to generate enough interest to entice further development or to have them read your script. Thus, your pitch is much like a movie trailer, providing the essence of the movie to create further involvement.

Open your presentation with small talk that establishes a common ground and builds rapport. By doing so, this can be a major factor in selling your script. It cleanses the palate, and you begin on a clean slate with no ccarryoverfrom previous presentations. Before you start your pitch, provide context by defining the genre of your script or give a brief background of your story before you begin your detailed pitch. For instance, this comedy occurs at an all-girl boarding school outside of Boston.

Make the experience as if they were watching a trailer of your completed movie. Pitches in the comedy mode should be funny, and those in the thriller genre should have moments of surprise and suspense. Use precise words to create a vivid visualization and avoid abstract themes and generalizations. Likewise, provide markers where you are in the script, such as “Moving into act two” or “In the final scene.” This helps the listener know where they are in the story and where the plot points and twists are.

Use suspense to increase interest. Instead of telling the listener how the story evolves, plant the seeds for the twists and surprising revelations. Using these set-ups and pay-offs to your advantage illustrates your storytelling skills, a point often overlooked when promoting your screenwriting abilities.

Expect to be interrupted. Most meetings are conversational and interactive. So, be ready to expand on your pitch and provide more details. Being too detailed and describing every scene, character, or location bogs the process. The more you say, the less they hear. Find descriptive and active words that quickly bring life to the story. Being animated and emotional likewise enlivens your pitch as it lets your enthusiasm shine. It shows you believe in your project.

Using too many names also confuses the presentation. While it’s okay for main characters, it’s best to identify supporting characters by their function or descriptive handle. In addition, don’t be afraid of clarifying your pitch. Interact and ask if they have any questions at this point. Respond to their questions and suggestions positively. Disagreeing with them shows a lack of respect for their input. Consider their suggestions and then get back to them.

Besides the conference with experts, the market also sponsors a pitch session. Here, ten participants were selected based on their submitted videos and got two minutes to pitch their ideas. Another ten are chosen from the audience, and in these two groups, judges select a winner. A modest cash prize goes to the winner, along with industry awareness.

These pitching sessions are not for the weak. Critiques tend to be on the acidic side of constructive. If it’s boring, you’ll likely hear that assessment. Likewise, you will listen to questions about casting, budget, and marketability. Be ready with answers and comparisons to other pictures with similar budgets that have done well.

Besides the pitch sessions, there are many opportunities to pitch your script or project to people attending the market, such as producers, production companies, distributors, and sales agents. These people and their contact information are listed in the market’s catalog. You can also mingle with these people in the large hotel lobby or at screenings, events, and parties held during the market.

What you learn at this market will help improve your pitching abilities. The networking possibilities are endless and provide ample opportunities to connect. In addition, thank you notes, query letters, and follow-up meetings will help strengthen these relationships. One should likewise consider pitching at other venues, such as film festivals, writer conferences, and pitch fests. Links to these events are available online. Each time you do a pitch session, you learn what grabs people’s attention. You become better at describing and promoting your film.

Moreover, if you keep practicing your craft, it won’t be a strikeout but a home run deal.

Erik Sean McGiven has worked as a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader. Recently, he compiled a 14-page resource guide, which covers the most pertinent facets of screenwriting for beginning and emerging screenwriters. It is available at http://www.erikseanmcgiven.com/writings/the-biz/screenwriter-resources/. Erik is also a writer/producer, production designer, and film reviewer.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Erik_Sean_McGiven/1265958

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/9113600You might also be interested in these videos:
The Key To Finding Success Ain theAmerican Film Market With A Movie by Amar Sidhu
Film Courage

American Film Market: Selling Your Independent Film with Ben Yennie – IFH 015
Indie Film Hustle

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.