The annual American Film Market in Santa Monica is a magnet for independent filmmakers even if they have no finished film to sell. The heat created by the $800M+ worth of deals that get sealed over the 10-day event spills over and energizes every interaction. For many, coming to this year's market is the best way to lay the groundwork of relationships that will pay off in next year's.
This is the strategy used by first-time conference attendees Scott Wohlstein and Deven Dittrich, independent filmmakers from Pittsburgh, PA. "If you are a serious filmmaker, AFM is THE place to be in terms of getting connected to what is going on in the film world, to get a sense and pace of the industry, and to make and maintain relationships" comments Scott Wohlstein, Managing Partner, Visceral Films. Development Manager Deven Dittrich agrees, "We work in a region that is far removed from Hollywood. Within the time frame of the marketplace at AFM, we can plug ourselves into the community, albeit briefly. It makes a huge difference."
With Pennsylvania being one of the most recent states to grant favorable tax rebates and incentives in order to inspire more film production within its borders, Visceral Films feels that attending AFM has helped to place them in a much better position in order to take advantage of these newly-formed incentives. "You meet a lot of people at AFM and everyone has the same goal - to make films that are successful both critically and commercially" observes Scott, "any state that makes itself more favorable to do business in instantly becomes a component worthy of consideration when trying to mitigate the commercial risks. By attending AFM and building personal relationships with people looking to shoot in Pennsylvania, we are now also able to lend our knowledge and established extensive network of relationships with a broad and highly qualified crew base for other companies that want to shoot in western Pennsylvania."
Scott and Deven attended this year because they are currently developing their slate of film projects which includes two works from Los Angeles-based writer Eric Rogers (Futurama, The Simpsons, Over There, NYPD Blue, and Law and Order). "Everything starts with a great story" Deven notes. "Without it, you don't have a movie and you cannot get anyone interested in becoming involved - which is critical to the development cycle - and Eric is the type of writer any independent producer would love to work with. We are blessed ".
The guys note that this year, interest has exceeded all expectations. Visceral Films will not acquire or develop a project that cannot attract distribution and sales. While this might seem intuitive, it is not the normal approach by independent filmmakers. "Most filmmakers outside the studio system fall in love with the story and spend all their time raising money to create something that, most probably, will never see distribution" laments Scott. "We will only spend our time and limited financial resources on projects that will have distribution- we are business people first and foremost and have to show a return for our investors." Deven notes, "Hollywood is a dream factory. But the difference between a person with a dream and the person with a goal is that the person with the goal has a dream and a plan. AFM should be part of every filmmakers plan."
Deven is excited. "Our investors are extremely pleased with the interest we brought back this year- not only from a distribution and sales perspective, but new support services as well. 2008 looks very busy."
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