By Jane Applegate
What’s not to love about attending the American Film Market? The weather and location is perfect: AFM is held in early November at several beachfront hotels in Santa Monica. So, if no one likes your films or the frenetic energy and hubbub inside the Loew’s hotel is too intense, you just step outside for a hit of sunshine and a sea breeze.
This year, I opted for a one-day pass ($250). It was perfect, especially since I’m focusing more on production consulting and only had one quirky film to sell. With a badge, you can make appointments in advance, or just wander up and down the halls to get a quick overview of what distributors are buying.
No surprise that horror films sales are stronger than ever. Anyone can make a great scary film on a low budget if you have a good script and a decent cast. Family friendly and kids’ films were also popular at the market this year.
The best part of AFM is meeting people from all over the world. The young and enthusiastic team from BarrLipp, based in Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia, shared their impressive slate of films over coffee on the deck of Le Merigot Hotel.
They have several films in production and were looking to meet more American filmmakers and distributors.
I attended a cool session where French book publishers pitched their books for film adaptations.
Always looking for great locations, I met with the lovely guys from the Malta Film Commission. Who knew Malta was so easy to get to, has fabulous and diverse locations and offers generous film incentives?
The United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade had a booth set up in the Location Expo area. Various film commissions in the UK are promoting production and post-production services to filmmakers from around the world. I also met with the Japanese film commission reps to learn about shooting in Japan.
A project from Blender (www.blender.org)
In the filmmakers’ lounge, I met a variety of people, including JT Nelson, a software developer who promotes Blender, an open source animation and VFX platform. He explained why Blender was kicking ass because big software companies were not responding to users requests for upgrades and improvements.
Roberto Capriotti, a first time attendee, had flown out from NYC to find backers for a feature film he’s making about competing biscotti bakers in Queens. His company, Brain Oven Entertainment, has a name that few will forget.
After learning about how to make a good biscotti from Roberto, I ended up at the evening cocktail party where I met Merja Ritola, the Finnish producer of the new documentary, War Peace, about the Weather Underground.
The film, produced by her Greenlit Productions, had just screened in New York City. She graciously shared a link so I could watch it. It is an important and thought-provoking film, especially in these unsettling times.
At the end of the day, I had no luck selling the film I came to peddle, but the contacts I made opened new doors and connected me with people I’m sure to keep in touch with.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Toby Perl Freilich! Toby is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and writer, focusing on cultural reporting. Her work explores all sorts of perspectives, from senators to artists, spanning across the world. She co-produced and co-directed Moynihan, a film about the late New York senator, policy expert, and public intellectual. She also directed, produced, and wrote Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, about one of the world's longest running and most successful experiments in radical, secular communal living. Right now, she is producing and directing I Make Maintenance Art: The Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles about the pioneering ecofeminist and the first Artist in Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Read about Toby’s inspiring past and future projects here!READ MORE
Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Aisha Amin! Aisha is an NYC-based writer and director. As a director, her work expands across narrative, documentary, and experimental forms to tell authentic stories built from real experiences. Her past film projects have explored and highlighted overlooked communities particularly in New York City, including formerly incarcerated mothers and communities struggling with the presence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Amongst her directing, Aisha is an emerging screenwriting and was selected to participate in Cine Qua Non’s 2022 Screenwriting Lab. She is a 2022 recipient of NYFA’s Tomorrowland Grant and a 2021 recipient of the NYFA Women's Fund grant. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center where she directed two short documentaries. She is also a recipient of The Shed's Open Call Fellowship where she expanded her film practice to installation art. Aisha spoke to us about her favorite styles of storytelling, the intersection of narrative and documentary, and her latest projects.READ MORE