As many of you know, for the past week, I was attending the American Film Market & Conferences. Wow, what an experience. I highly recommend producers and directors attending at least one year. You will learn a tremendous amount. One of the key pieces I learned this year’s AFM was repeated multiple times throughout the conference. Story is the star. Sure, you still need a few major name talent that will drive viewers to your film, but if the story is mediocre, those name actors no longer hold as much weight. You used to be able to get away with making money on a crappy action movie with a couple big names in it. Those days are long gone. Buyers are taking on films with less name actors but great stories, such as “Whiplash”, “The Witch”, “Moonlight”. Stories that can carry into the awards season are what buyers are looking for.
It was such a relief to finally hear that quality is no longer a bonus, but an absolute necessity when it comes to selling your film. This seems like common sense, but many distributors and financiers were burned in the past when they pre-bought films that turned out to be pieces of crap. Not only have audiences become more savvy, but financiers and international buyers have too. This is the time for great artistry to be in the limelight.
So, I’m not saying that everyone should go out and make a heart-wrenching drama. That still will be a hard sell unless you have Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt..well maybe best not to have the two of them in the same room. The genre of a film is still the number one card when it comes to the market of your film. Family films have a great place in the market right now as well as thrillers, sci-fi, action and some horrors. Horror films have to work a little harder than they used to since the market became so over saturated with them. After speaking with a few different distributors, they mentioned finding the hook in your film that can quality it into a particular genre if it is a drama. Some dramatic films have thrilling qualities about them, but you may not feel comfortable qualifying it as a full on thriller film. According to distributors, it’s a thriller. Find the hook and exploit it. If your film can be anything other than a drama, make it that, especially if you do not have the name talent to carry it in the marketplace.
At the end of the day, when you make a feature film, you are making a product to be sold. Yes, your audience and buyers have finally come to appreciate the artistry so many of us spent years crafting. But we still have to keep in mind that this is a business. Finding that balance between high quality craftsmanship and marketability of your product is the key to success. This all comes down to surrounding yourself with a great team. We will touch more on that subject in a later post. So go out there and make some badass art…that can sell.