The Invisible Man: Alive and Well at The American Film Market by: Cathie Beamish
He was anonymous, intriguing and even inspiring
It wasn’t the first time I had met this man at the American Film Market, but the November 2017 AFM marked the first time I realized who he really was. He was, as he called himself, “the Invisible Man,” and I was hooked.
It all started when I was sitting down on the terrace at Le Merigot, eating lunch and waiting to meet up with my friends when a stranger asked if a nearby seat was taken. Before long he was asking me if I had a project at the Market and what it was about. Unfortunately, before we could delve too deeply into who we were, his entourage appeared and the conversation took a detour.
After a few minutes of brief introductions and small talk, one of the women in his group leaned over and whispered in my ear that if I had a project this man liked, it would get made. When I asked who he was, she just smiled. She went on to explain that he didn’t go to the floors or the seminars, he just scoured the market listening and making deals.
Before long, I learned that this man, and other angels like him, would spend their days mingling in LeMerigot and Loews and the evenings socializing at the parties. All the while, these angel investors were looking for the perfect partnerships. These partnerships could be with writers, directors or filmmakers. These are the people who can provide you with financing or other help.
Even though I realized the importance of networking at the AFM a long time ago, meeting the Invisible Man was a real eye opener and one of the strongest affirmations I can think of for attending the AFM in person.
We all know that if you have a great project and pitch it well to the production companies who have offices on the floors of the market hotels, you could strike up a partnership and see your project appear on the big screen before the next AFM. However, sometimes we forget that the person sitting next to you on the terrace at lunch or leaning against one of the high top tables at one of the many industry parties is actually searching for you and your project. Remember, this is one place where the angels can remain anonymous if they so choose, in the middle of a field of potential partners. The conversations here are less formal, allowing the angels not only get to know your project, but to forge a relationship with you as well. These angels understand that should you enter into a partnership you are really entering into a business marriage which means that you need to be compatable.
Even though the conversations with an angel might be casual, you MUST perfect your elevator pitch. Everything at the market moves so quickly you don’t have time to stumble through the essence of your story. The pitch must be tight, and must tell the potential partner everything he/she needs to know about the plot, characterization etc. in two minutes or less.
My writing partner attended the pitch session and was amazed at what she learned about pitching even though she had been pitching for quite some time. According to my partner, the panelists offered invaluable tips to audience members looking to pitch their projects at this AFM, but even more than that, the audience could listen and judge the pitches of those attendees who volunteered to pitch their projects on stage. Actually being able to listen to others pitch and do well or make mistakes allowed the audience to see the process from the other side of the fence … the side that makes decisions on your projects. Immediately after the pitch session, she ran back and began perfecting what she had thought was a pretty good pitch … until she attended the seminar.
Just as a side bar, my writing partner is currently preparing to go into production in the next couple of weeks, on the first of two movies on her slate. She acknowledges that the AFM has had a profound influence on her ability to get these movies made.
Although I have been writing for many years, I decided to attend the writing workshops. These sessions were not designed to teach the newbie authors how to write a script, but they were a great idea for reminding directors, producers, actors and writer how to look at a piece of writing that might not be working and understand why it does not work and how to reshape it.
2017 was the first year for the writer’s sessions, but the feedback I heard after the session was great. This year the writer’s workshops have blossomed into two days, and I am excited to see what the new sessions will bring.
A side benefit of the writer’s workshop was that non-writers and writers could network and be brought onto projects and/or sell their own projects. In fact, I was approached by two different parties about the possibilities of coming on board as a script writer, but unfortunately I was already working on other projects.
As I circulated through the market, I had the opportunity to talk to many individuals about their take on financing opportunities, the state of the business and more. I learned very important information about Netflix, the value of sales agents and public relations people and more.
It was only a few short years ago that Netflix was considered the compromised alternative to a theatrical release or a tiny element in your capital stack. Not so these days. Actors are eager to sign on to a Netflix series. Feature films with a theatrical release may make considerably less than a Netflix original. When you speak with the general public you often discover that Netflix is no longer the second choice but rather the preferred platform for viewing.
As a filmmaker or writer, you need to understand the trends. With your paid badges that allow you entrance into the floors of the AFM, you also get enrolled in My AFM which allows members to blog and get to know each other and discuss important issues.
Audiences at the seminars learned how important it is to engage a pr person who often has friendly access to name actors and can pass your project along when you might otherwise not gain access. Your sales agent can help you obtain financing.
When you are new to the industry you don’t necessarily know which sales agents or public relations people are good, or even good for your project. Speaking live with other filmmakers or watching the blogs can often help you make a decision about who is right for you and your project.
Although my prior articles have revelled a great deal of information which came from the seminars and round tables and this one deals with networking, it is essential for filmmakers to consider attending the AFM in person. You need to make personal connection and this is a fantastic place to do it.
Each year I connect with emerging filmmakers as well as established filmmakers who have been successful launching their projects because of their experience at the AFM.
See you at the AFM. Break a leg.