October 24, 2023
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How to Crush it at the American Film Market 2023

Loring Weisenberger
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Every November, Santa Monica’s American Film Market (AFM) becomes the center of the feature filmmaking universe. Films are bought and sold. Projects are pitched and funded. People are connected, and careers are changed. 

As an official Premiere Sponsor of the American Film Market 2023 and Presenting Sponsor of the AFM Sessions, Wrapbook strives to put more power directly in the hands of filmmakers. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to taking charge of your AFM film market experience. 

Below, we’ll show you how to plan, prepare, and execute an AFM-worthy strategy for pushing your project to the next level.

Join Wrapbook at the 2023 AFM Sessions

As a Presenting Sponsor of the 2023 AFM Sessions, Wrapbook will host an in-depth discussion on the Benefits & Limitations of Global Tax Incentives. You can join Ryan Broussard and a panel of experts to explore the current state of film funding. The session will take place on November 1 from 11:30 am to 1 pm.

How to Crush It at the American Film Market 2023 - Wrapbook - Event Image

Even if you can’t attend the event, visit our table outside the AFM Sessions to enter an exciting giveaway of $10K in production rentals co-sponsored by Line 204. We can’t wait to see you there!

What is the American Film Market?

The American Film Market is a marketplace that centers around the licensing and distribution of feature films. It’s a gathering place for the global film community where a full spectrum of buyers and sellers converge to explore fresh business opportunities. 

The American Film Market estimates that over $1 billion in deals are initiated at AFM every single year. 

So, what is the American Film Market? In short, it is the event for anyone looking to pitch, sell, fund, or buy the rights to a film on an open market. 

Is the American Film Market a film festival?

No, the AFM film market is not a film festival. It is distinctly a marketplace. While it’s true that movies are shown at AFM and that networking is a high priority for attendees, there are no competitions or juries. 

Films are not divided into programs, and the only prizes to be won are the deals that attendees forge for themselves.  

The AFM film market is all about business. The goal of attendance is to advance companies, projects, and careers within the international film industry. 

Who should attend the American Film Market 2023?

Anyone can attend the American Film Market 2023 by purchasing one of several AFM badges, but the market caters primarily to buyers and sellers. 

The AFM gathers industry professionals who finance, produce, and distribute 90% of films around the world. If you have a reason to connect with these professionals, the American Film Market 2023 is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Hundreds of sales companies and distributors attend AFM to present and review over a global catalog of new films and projects. Experienced producers show up to sell finished films and secure deals for future film financing

Now that the 2023 WGA strike has concluded, even writers can use the AFM film market to pitch screenplays and seek potential producing partners.

How to Make the Most of the American Film Market 2023

Now that we understand the basics of the American Film Market, let’s talk about taking charge of your next AFM experience. This guide is designed for producers with a film or developed project to sell, but its tenets apply to any professional attending AFM to present a business opportunity.

1. Develop a plan

At the American Film Market, strategy is everything. The event only lasts for six days, and it’s in your project’s best interests to make the most of every single minute. With thousands of industry professionals and limitless opportunities present at the AFM, how do you optimize your odds for success?  

Understand your film or project

When you attend the American Film Market with a project in hand, you are effectively attending as a salesperson. To sell something, you must first understand what makes it valuable. Movies and screenplays are no exception to this rule. 

Before you attend the AFM film market, analyze the characteristics that make your project attractive.

These details are tools for formulating a successful pitch and will form the foundation of your American Film Market strategy. 

Target specific companies

Regardless of its quality, your project will simply not be a great fit for every company at the AFM. Therefore, the key to an effective strategy for working the market is to figure out which companies make the most sense for what you have to offer. 

Research the production profiles of your target film distributors. What genres of film do they usually distribute? Is there a specific audience that they serve? Can you identify their preferred levels of budget and risk? Do they seem to specialize in any particular distribution channel?

Whether it’s a distributor or any other corporate entity, you’ll be able to get a feel for its identity by simply reviewing their previous work. Combined with a thorough understanding of your own project, this information will quickly reveal whether the company might be right for you. 

The AFM recommends that you aim for a target list of between 30 and 40 companies.

Target specific executives

You can improve the quality of your list by identifying target executives within each company. These are the individuals with whom you’ll want to make direct contact in the marketplace.

Cater this list of executives to the specifics of your project and your goals for the AFM. You’ll likely want to keep an eye out for high-ranking executives involved with acquisitions, development, or production. 

If you can’t find the appropriate executive’s name online, try reaching out directly to the company’s office by phone. 

Prioritize your time

Your time and energy at AFM will be limited. Maximize your chances for success by further prioritizing your list of target companies. The goal is to front-load your target list with the companies that represent the best and most specific opportunities for your project at the AFM. 

For example, the American Film Market is a unique opportunity because it brings professionals from all around the world to a single location. If any of the companies on your list maintain offices near your home base, then it won’t be as urgent for you to meet with them during the AFM. You could always set up a meeting with them later, on your own schedule.

Or think of how you’d prioritize a meeting with Wrapbook. As an official Premiere Sponsor of the American Film Market 2023, Wrapbook will have a presence on the market floor, but you can also contact us directly whenever you want. 

If you’re looking for a one-stop payroll and production insurance solution, you don’t have to wait for the AFM to see how Wrapbook is the perfect fit for your next shoot. 

In fact, you can check out the demo right now.  

2. Prepare your AFM logistics

Once you have a basic strategy, you need to get yourself and your team physically ready to execute that strategy within the marketplace. To use a filmmaker’s analogy, this step is like pre-production

It’s the phase in which you’ll turn creative ideas into concrete materials and actionable logistics.

Schedule meetings ahead of time

The last thing you want to do at the American Film Market is to “wing it” with your schedule. That’s why it’s in your best interest to schedule meetings with your target companies well in advance. 

Send a short, personalized email to your target executives about one month before AFM. If there’s no response, follow up by phone a few days later.

Keep in mind that you need to give these companies a reason to meet with you. Communicate your reason for reaching out as well as the value of your project in clear, concise terms. With any luck, you’ll find your AFM schedule filling up with meetings in no time.  

Assemble your materials

You won’t have time to print more business cards while the American Film Market is in full swing. Instead, prep a large supply of any leave-behind materials that you think might come in handy beforehand. 

Physical materials should be customized to represent each project on its own terms, but here are a few items that you might want to have at the ready:

  • Business cards
  • A project synopsis
  • Biographies of attached producers and key creatives
  • A summary of your project’s unique creative and financial features

You may also wish to include items to be distributed more selectively, like a completed screenplay or a pitch deck. Carefully consider both your goals and your sales strategy before handing out such materials. 

If the documents are sensitive for any reason, be sure to consult with your legal representatives before bringing them to the open marketplace.

For producers selling a finished film, the AFM also recommends having 3-6 minutes of selected scenes available via a password-protected link. Note that this should not be a trailer. 

Potential distributors and investors want to get a feel for the movie themselves, not how you would sell the movie in their position.

Purchase your AFM badges

There are several options for official American Film Market 2023 badges available for attendees. AFM badges differ by access type as well as attendance dates.

If you have a project or script in search of production partners or investors, the AFM recommends purchasing a Four-Day or Four-Day-Plus badge. For producers with a finished film, the AFM recommends purchasing a badge at the Executive level or higher to maximize sales opportunities.

Check out all AFM badge options here

3. Polish your pitch

A solid pitch is the cornerstone of a successful experience at the American Film Market. Before you set one foot in the marketplace, it’s imperative that you get your pitch in the best shape of its life. 

Pitching is more art than science, but that doesn’t mean you can’t actively apply some discipline to its development. There are two basic components to developing a strong pitch.

Script the pitch

In pitching, organization is your friend. Rather than relying on improv for your sales spiel, take the extra time to deliberately script your pitch from start to finish. 

Focus on finding the most efficient way to communicate what makes your project valuable and unique. Remember that your time will be limited. 

Plan your pitch in a way that mitigates any meandering in the conversation.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Once you have your pitch planned out, practice it. You want the structure of your pitch to be second nature by the time you arrive at the AFM. 

If possible, rehearse your pitch with audiences that are not familiar with your project. A pitch will flow differently in conversation. Real-world experience will help you build confidence before hitting the market floor. 

4. Execute your sales strategy at the American Film Market 2023

The only thing better than a good plan is a good plan well-executed. Once you arrive at the American Film Market, it is officially game time.

Here are a few tips for nailing your performance inside the marketplace.

Work your schedule

Your top priority at the AFM should be to follow through on your initial game plan. Show up to each of your scheduled meetings on time and make each interaction count. Remember to leave behind your prepared materials and keep notes on each meeting.

Stay diligent when circumstances shift

It’s unlikely that every single minute of your AFM schedule will go exactly as planned. Meetings will inevitably be delayed, canceled, or even rescheduled. When this happens, remember that it’s a natural part of the AFM experience and that it could lead to new opportunities.

If you find yourself with a sudden opening in your schedule, refer to your prioritized list of target companies. You can use this unexpected free time to further build upon your general strategy. For instance, you could visit companies that wouldn’t schedule a meeting beforehand. Alternatively, you might consider scouting out new companies in person. If you remain focused on your larger strategy in the market, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to add unscheduled value to your AFM experience.

Focus on the long game

Your time at the American Film Market is limited, but remember that the AFM is only a starting point. Most deals will likely be struck after the event has ended.

That’s why it’s so important to keep the long game in mind, even while you’re trying to maximize the value of your week at the AFM. 

Your immediate goal should not necessarily be to close a big deal in the middle of the market. It should be to lock in the next meeting, to make the next connection, or to take the next step.

In that same spirit, follow up on the contacts and connections you make at the American Film Market. Even if they don’t lead directly to a sale, they may expand your strategic possibilities or open up more opportunities further down the road. 

Is the American Film Market worth it?

Forging a successful experience at the American Film Market requires a lot of work. The event is only for those who approach their craft at a serious, professional level. 

But does the AFM really live up to its hype? If you need proof, just look at the numbers.

The American Film Market gathers thousands of industry professionals from more than 80 countries together in a single location. Hundreds of production, distribution, and sales companies strike deals over films in every stage of development. More than 10,000 projects are available from AFM sales companies, and more than 700 feature films are screened within the six days of the AFM’s duration. 

Annually, the American Film Market hosts over $1 billion in deals.  

Is the American Film Market worth it? Yes, but here’s a better question. 

Is the American Film Market worth it for your project?

You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.

Wrapping up

The next set of American Film Market dates run from October 31 to November 5 in the heart of Santa Monica. Wrapbook is a proud Premiere Sponsor of the American Film Market 2023. We hope to see you and your project live on the market floor. 

While AFM is not a film festival, a lot of the same tips apply, so be sure to plan ahead and be ready. Be sure to attend Wrapbook’s panel on the Benefits & Limitations of Global Tax Incentives and stop by our table outside the AFM Sessions to take part in our exciting giveaway of $10K in production rentals co-sponsored by Line 204.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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