Going to the American Film Market This Year? Here Are 5 Useful Tips

American Film Market
Every year thousands of sales agents and distributors meet at the American Film Market in Santa Monica to make movie deals.

But as the sands of distribution rapidly shift, many filmmakers are getting the short end of the stick with out-dated distribution deals. How can you avoid the typical pitfalls of deal-making at one of the biggest film markets in the world? Jason Brubaker of Filmmaking Stuff has written a guide with useful information for hopefuls, first-time, and veteran filmmakers alike.

Not familiar with AFM? Allow this corny video to get you privy:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT262cwfNMc

The majority of modern distribution deals DO NOT pay much money.

Traditional distribution is murky territory for most filmmakers these days because, well, most filmmakers these days haven't been doing it very long. Many of us started in a post-2008 landscape (or the post-5D Mark II landscape) and during this time the distribution world has been flipped on its head. As I just experienced releasing my first feature online, distribution isn't easy — no matter what side of the industry you come from. Traditional theatrical deals are still best for some, but online is clearly the future.

Jason offers his perspective in a well-written blog post, using fun and colorful phrases like "a painful bout of distribution chlamydia" and "I couldn’t help but puke a little bit more in my mouth." It's a good read, really. If you have a few minutes, check it out. if not, here's a snapshot.

Jason Brubaker's 5 Tips for Navigating AFM:

Jason Brubaker

  1. Have an objective. Create a list of people you want to meet, and why.
  2. Refine your pitch and make sure it sounds interesting.
  3. Only pitch your movie to people looking for your type of movie.
  4. Have a nice business card. But don’t give it out unless someone is interested in your pitch.
  5. Don’t do a deal without due diligence. This helps you avoid the bottom feeders.

Jason is out there fighting the good fight in terms of empowering filmmakers with knowledge. Head over to Filmmaking Stuff to check out all the other resources he has for filmmakers looking to distribute their film. He is an active speaker in the distribution space and also does live Webinars on selling your movie.

AFM takes place from November 5th-12th in Santa Monica, California. Will you be attending? Share your own strategies and experiences from AFM in the comments below.

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Actually some brilliant stuff in that blog. Thanks!

September 3, 2014 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Altus Firh

You forgot one thing:
If you never heard of said distributor before ask them a lot questions. There is a trend at AFM where out of state distributors attend to make deals they don't intend to close just have your movie rights. Also you want to know if that distributor is going to have your vision and best interest at heart. Maybe that can be the topic for another blog: Questions you should ask a movie Distributor. Agreed?

September 3, 2014 at 9:19PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Great post. I suspect there's a lot of great information on Jason's site, but there's so much to say about what due diligence really entails. Actually contacting filmmakers who have worked with certain distributors to hear what their experience was like and researching what happened to those projects can reveal vital information.

September 10, 2014 at 9:21AM


I'm going for the first time this year. It's been interesting to prepare for the trip, because everyone has about the same 5-10 tips, but I still have no idea what to expect when I get there.

Not to self promote, but to hopefully shed some light, I've been documenting the process and will be doing daily updates in video format on youtube. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6epdV79vnLc&list=PLmeXQ-uHko4-I5ijUtVPJC... or if that's doesn't work/isn't allowed, just search for Telekinesis Backlot channel on youtube, or telekinesisent on twitter.

November 6, 2014 at 5:35AM

Daren Smith