This article was originally part of the Insider Cinema guide to Hollywood, a website from the mid-2000s. We are reposting it here as both a writing sample and a guide for those seeking to get their foot in the door in Hollywood.
AFM stands for the American Film Market and is hosted every year at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica, CA. The entire hotel is rented out: every suite is occupied by a film company, and every square inch is occupied by someone who wants to make a deal. It’s organized by the Independent Film and Television Alliance and allows independent filmmakers and distributors from around the world to come together in one place and do business. It’s basically a giant trade show, like Comic-con but without the cool costumes.
Covering AFM as the press can be a paradoxical task: you’re given a pass that can go anywhere in the Market, and no one wants to talk to you. As of press, you’re kind of the black sheep of the entertainment industry. The only people that matter here are the buyers and the sellers, and if you’re not one of them, well then the good news is you can overhear bull shit spoken in over 70 languages.
As a member of the press, you immediately distinguish between who’s who. When interacting with the companies that set up shop here, it’s an interesting experience. The smaller companies pester you, asking who you are, and then when they realize you can’t help them, they usher you away. The bigger companies aren’t as abrasive, they just look at your badge, and ignore you until you get the hint. The sad thing is more and more civility goes out the window as economic times get tougher, and this is no exception. With the crunching economy, many here have complained that the once steady stream of buyers is drying up, and now are only seeing sporadic deals taking place.
In fact, when I visited AFM last year, you could barely move through the packed halls. Now, it’s a ghost town.
AFM is something everyone should check out at least once, but don’t expect to make a killer deal there. Unless you have a finished film or own a distribution company, then there’s no real way for you to benefit from the experience.
Unlike most entertainment industry events, AFM is the only one I’ve seen that brings out everything there is about the entertainment industry. Not necessarily everything good, or everything bad, but simply everything. There’s the beautiful struggling actress trying to network. The flashy Texas businessman. The washed-up producer trying to sneak in (literally) and make one last deal. The sleazy mogul lauds the benefits of the independent film but makes his living on movies with plenty of T&A. The hungry film students look around with wide-eyed amazement at the glamour that is AFM.
However, as the economy tightens, what will happen to this bustling metropolis of cinephiles? Only time will tell.
For more information on AFM, go to http://www.ifta-online.org/afm/home.asp
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