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Why Every Actor Should Attend the American Film Market

Why Every Actor Should Attend the American Film Market

My students will not like that I am sharing this with Backstage readers. Occasionally, I dish them the exclusive networking and industry party opportunities I have access to as a producer and director (and as someone with a publicist). But this opportunity is more public and too good not to share with Backstage. This is a Hollywood casting hack if ever there was one. 

I hope my private students will forgive me for letting you all in on the scoop here. A number of my actors who took this advice last year have been steadily working in lead roles on budgeted and distribution-bound indie feature films as a direct result. 

From Nov. 4–11 in Santa Monica, something is going down. It’s called the American Film Market (AFM). What is AFM? It is a massive global marketplace where U.S. films are sold to foreign distribution companies. Now, don’t worry if you do not have a film to sell. You have yourself to sell as an actor.

Here is the bottom line: Basically every indie filmmaker in the U.S. who will get a film out into the world with a barcode and an MPAA rating on it (no small feats) will be in attendance.

When you audition, you are hoping against hope to make it past the casting director so that you can ultimately be in a room with the producers and directors who make all the real decisions. Well, that room is waiting for you at AFM times 8000 (the number of industry pros who attend). 

Get away from your computer and connect with the decision-makers before they even start pre-production on their next movies. Meet the producers and directors who are cranking out work, not in a competitive casting office but in a dynamic environment where you can share a drink by the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Catch them in a moment of celebration. (After all, they have all completed films. They are also feeling excited and are looking toward the future. You can become a casting option by simply making friends with them in a prime moment like this.) 

No, you cannot just do the same thing on LinkedIn. Face-to-face interaction is required, you millennial cowards! And for those with the grit it takes to get in there and hustle your way into parties, AFM is a great place to make it all happen. 

If you make the right friend in a filmmaker, they can tailor a part just for you and even become a lifelong collaborator. Before “Raging Bull,” and “Goodfellas” Robert De Niro was an unknown but compelling guy Martin Scorsese had just seen around the neighborhood, only later was he cast in a small indie film called “Mean Streets.” Ah, it can be good to be noticed—even in this day and age.

Now, you all likely have friends that are making movies already, but how many of them are getting their work distributed? Most, if not all, of the filmmakers you will meet bustling around the AFM campus (with name badges around their necks identifying them as such) are guys who are getting it done. Or at least getting it out there.

Yes, many of the filmmakers you will meet at AFM are going to be, shall we say, working their way up to more artistic projects. This is good news, as you will be able to form a relationship with them before they disappear behind the studio walls. Get to know some ambitious filmmakers on their way up before the access is closed off. 

Want to know more about going to AFM as an actor? You should, because I have a lot of inside info for you. As a filmmaker myself, I have been approached by hundreds of actors looking for a break there, so allow me to further advise. 

Find a important list of do’s and don’ts for those bold enough to attend AFM on my personal blog, where I also explain how to make friends without looking like a “networker,” and how to avoid spending a lot of cash when you attend. From where to park to where the where the filmmakers are hanging out, I will give you the details. 

Visit www.americanfilmmarket.com for more specifics about the event from their official site. See you there.  

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Ryan R. Williams is a Los Angeles based on-camera acting teacher, founder of Screen Actors Systemand Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Williams’ full bio! 

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff. 

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