Attending the American Film Market in Santa Monica

Aerial view of Santa Monica foreshore with jetty, ocean and beach, and building in the backgound. Home of the American Film Market.

Beyond Content attends AFM 2020

Each year in November, thousands of people from around the world descend on Santa Monica to attend the American Film Market. It’s known as the “most efficient film acquisition, development and networking event in the world”. Film industry professionals from across the globe come together for five days and over 1 billion dollars worth of deals are made. We had been looking forward to attending this festival for a while and decided in mid-2019 to attend AFM in 2020. We were very excited! Whilst Chloe (our Senior Producer) had attended the European Film Market in 2018, this would be the first time Beyond Content would attend a film market with a robust and diverse slate to present. We had done our research and planned our booth, and we were excited about the prospect of learning more about the US model regarding finance, distribution and co-production. The US independent film industry is very appealing to us. Then COVID happened… As the world rapidly changed, we realised our long-awaited trip to Santa Monica would be impossible. Our AFM dreams weren’t over though. AFM quickly announced they were making the 2020 event virtual.

HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS OF ATTENDING THE 2020 AMERICAN FILM MARKET… ONLINE

From our Senior Producer, Chloe Gardner

When we got over the initial disappointment of not being able to hang out in Santa Monica, there were still a bunch of amazing highlights to our first AFM. The obvious highlight of attending any international event online is the savings. Not having to fund international flights and accommodation meant we were able to be part of the AFM with less risk and have been able to sound it out and better prepare ourselves for when we return in person, hopefully in the not too distant future. Exhibiting at AFM had a bunch of instant additional benefits, including 12 months full access to Cinando (a fantastic online network for film professionals) and The Film Catalogue (allowing us to list our projects in development for the thousands of buyers and industry professionals that visit their site each week).

From our online listing with AFM, we were approached by distributors and sales agents before the festival even started. We were also able to form international relationships with distributors and agents who are generally interested in Australian made content. AFM had online chat rooms, that were grouped by genres and interests, where we were able to connect with other independent filmmakers and discuss both the similarities and differences in our approaches. This was all really great, however, we were reminded very quickly about the importance of face to face contact when trying to meet new people and network. In my experience, the impromptu conversations are such a highlight of film markets. I’ve had some of the best meetings outside of the event, at a bar or a café, on a bus, or sharing the market transport. So the opportunities to strike up conversations were very limited for us. The other problem we faced in Australia was the time difference. Most of the virtual events were live, making it practically impossible to attend any of the panels, discussions, forums, or set up meetings with US companies. One of the benefits of travelling to the event is that you can dedicate all your time to it. As we were a virtual attendee, we were still in the office with our usual workload which meant we weren’t able to give AFM the undivided attention it needs.

While there was no California for us this year and we missed the chance meetings, social gatherings and amazing connections you make at a film market in real life, we are still really pleased with our first exhibit and congratulate the team at AFM for making it happen.