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Have you ever wondered how films are sold internationally or domestically for that matter? Today on the show we have Jonathan Wolf, the managing director of the American Film Market or AFM as it’s known. The American Film Market generates over $1 Billion in the seven-day event. Buyers from around the world come to buy, sell and pre-sell their film projects.
Johnathan and I discuss the inner workings of the American Film Market, how you should attend, the difference between creating a trailer and poster for the consumer vs a distributor and a ton more.
Here’s a bit on today’s guest.
Jonathan Wolf has been IFTA’s Executive Vice President and Managing Partner of the AFM since 1998. He joined IFTA in 1993 as Senior Vice President of Business Development and established IFTA Collections, which now distributes millions of dollars in royalties to participants each year. Previously, Wolf spent two years as President & COO of Studio Three Film Corporation, a U.S. theatrical distribution company.
From 1980 to 1990 he held various finance positions within the industry, culminating as Chief Financial Officer of New World International, where he oversaw the company’s international operations. Wolf is a graduate of the University of Southern California Business School.
If you want to sell your film then get ready to take some notes. Enjoy my conversation with Johnathan Wolf from the American Film Market.
Alex Ferrari 2:09
Today's guest is Jonathan Wolf. He is the managing partner of AFM has been there since 1998. He is as they say, the man at AFM. He runs the whole show puts the whole thing together. And I really dug in and asked him every question I ever wanted to know about how to sell a film at AFM. We talk about pre sales, we talk about actors, what their values are, how to actually go to AFM, what to do, how to walk around what kind of meetings you should be taking, all these kind of things and how it just works as a general statement. And it is a big, just like another subculture is a whole other world you know AFM in that one hotel in Santa Monica has its own world, its own rules of how things are done. And they've been done this way. For decades. Now the landscape is changing without a doubt. But there is still very much a place where you you know if you're going to go after international sales, and domestic sales, for that matter, this is the place to be. And I was flabbergasted to find out that in those days, I think it's five or six days that AFM is running in November over a billion dollars of business is done is a pretty substantial, substantial place to be if you're a filmmaker now, if you don't have a movie, it's always good to just go get a pass and walk the halls to see what what people are doing, how they're selling it what you need to do. And this year, I'm planning to be there and I'm going to be there hopefully for the first time as a as a participant, not just someone hanging out, as as we talked about in the show, and in the episode today by the guys who just hang out in the lobby, but someone with an actual pass who's gonna be able to walk around and talk and so on. So, without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Jonathan wolf from AFM. I'd like to welcome to the show Jonathan Wolf, the managing director of AFM. Thank you so much for being on the show, Jonathan.
Jonathan Wolf 4:25
Happy to be here.
Alex Ferrari 4:26
So for everyone listening, can you just do a blanket answer of what is AFM?
Jonathan Wolf 4:31
The American Film market is essentially a trade show for independent film where licenses to film and the financing of film takes place. Global export takes place. It's where buyers and acquisition executives from maybe 80 countries come and meet with hundreds and hundreds of distributors and production companies to look for the films they want to buy that are finished the films that they want to buy that are in development and in production. And ultimately it's where film gets greenlit and for film travels all over the world. AFM is really the the door that films pass through to reach the globe
Alex Ferrari 5:12
That are not studio based. This is all for independent producers, mostly.
Jonathan Wolf 5:16
Yes, yeah. So we can get into a little bit later about what's independent, what studio and how all that works.
Alex Ferrari 5:21
All right, cool. Now, what are the basic goals of attendees to AFM from like the different sides of the business?
Jonathan Wolf 5:28
Well, there's three constituents that come to the market. There are the production distribution companies who are actively licensing film around the world, whether they're larger companies like I am global and Lionsgate and Sierra Finnerty down to very small ones that are coming from, whether it's Hong Kong or Argentina or France. And they all have productions that they're looking to license to acquisition executives all over the world, we refer to those companies as sales companies or distributors. Then the second group are territorial buyers, again, coming from about 80 countries buying the blu ray rights for France, buying the transactional VOD rights for for Japan buying the theatrical rights for the UK. And we have about 16 or 1700 buyers that come from all over the world. And then the third group you have is the production community. The middle of the bell curve of that are producers, then writers, film commissioners, post production facilities, lawyers, bankers, agents, really all of those who are involved in the process of bringing films forward. And those are the three groups and they each have a different mission. The the sales companies want to get the packages that they put together in the films that they've completed, licensed and sold around the world. The territorial buyers are looking for the films that that work best in their region and they're the media that they're buying for. And the production community I suppose you could say most are looking either to network or sell something producers and writers have scripts film Commission's are trying to encourage productions in their their region up production facilities are trying to get business in. And since so many films are greenlit at the AFM, it becomes a key destination for those who provide production services where they can connect with people who are about to about to go forward on a film they have an opportunity to to grab some business.
Alex Ferrari 7:25
So there it's basically a melting pot of the world filmmaking community.
Jonathan Wolf 7:29
Yeah and filmmaking community. on the business side, the AFM is about the craft. We don't advise actors to be there. The only reason a director should be there is that if they're actually also the writer, or also the producer, or involved in the pitch, it's not a place for cinematographers. It's about a place for those who contribute to the process of green lighting of film.
Alex Ferrari 7:50
Now I know and I've heard you speak before about Cannes and how you guys kind of complement each other. Can you talk a little bit about the differences in how you guys complement each other at the Cannes Cannes Film Festival.
Jonathan Wolf 8:00
There are three major film markets around the world. And just looking at it chronologically from today there's the American Film market in Santa Monica, the European film market that is held in February in Berlin, concurrently with the Berlin Film Festival, the Berlin alley, and then you have the Cannes Film market or marchais. to film which is held concurrently with can the Cannes Festival, the AFM and and the Cannes market are about the same size, they have the same buyers and the same distributors and sales companies there, there's probably a 90 to 95% overlap, the production community there may skew a little bit more European just because of proximity, the production community here may skew a little bit more American. But the business in the activities and the two are almost identical. They have a festival but the festival runs separate from the market just happens to take place at the same time. And and so the activities are the same the size of the audience is about the same. The European film market is probably about 75 or 80%, the size of each of those who and they probably get about 70 or 80% of the participants as sort of a mid semester stop between these two events one held in Hollywood or in Hollywood's backyard, I should say sanim. And so there's a tremendous value for those traveling all over the world to not only come to the AFM but have their meetings with studios and others in in Mecca, if you will. You have the marsh shade of film, which is held with the grandest of all festivals and in a beautiful environment in Cannes. And so yes, we're not competitors. We communicate frequently. They run a website called Senado. We have a feed of our database that goes straight into sananda. So when someone registers for the AFM within 24 hours, they're flagged and sananda is attending AFM so we work you know, in a very complementary way. Fantastic. No
Alex Ferrari 10:00
How can an independent independent producer with a film get the most out of AFM when they attend? Um, well,
Jonathan Wolf 10:09
I want to make sure I'm clear there's there's producers with the film that are finished and yes, for the film that are in a project state.
Alex Ferrari 10:15
So both both both both both tracks.
Jonathan Wolf 10:19
For producers let's let's do it chronologically, where producers with a project and let's let's start by saying that's a finished screenplay. What you don't find in the independent world are our production companies that are willing to pay for development costs. A producer who walks in and says, I just signed the rights to this guy's life, and it's going to be great, and I'm looking for development money for people to help go let's go hire a writer. They're not going to get much traction unless this is just you know, a superstar that they happen to sign. For the most part scripts are written on spec when it comes to independent film. So producer coming into the AFM needs to have a finished screenplay or screenplays. Hopefully they've got multiple projects that they're working on. And their goal really is to connect with the distributor, the sales company, we use those words somewhat interchangeably. Who is adept at licensing those films, packaging those films, assisting them and finding the right production subsidies and, and soft money, if you will, the incentives to help bring that film forward. And so when, when a producer is coming to the AFM, they're looking for the right match. We've got about 400 companies with offices, these companies come from 3035 countries, not every company is right for every film. So the producer is looking for who handles this kind of genre who handles this kind of budget? Are they interested in projects that they haven't produced themselves? Will they get involved in the packaging? You know, you've got decision makers from 400 companies under one roof. It's It's a unique opportunity, but it's an opportunity for someone who's prepared. And that means doing the homework well in advance. Someone who just shows up on opening day and thinks I'm going to go door to door and everybody's going to talk to me is going to walk home very unhappy. FM is about appointments, and schedules are being booked. Now as we speak. We're two weeks out from the show. Producers need to do the research. Use IMDb Pro, use our website, the film catalog comm which you go to from the FM's website, where you can see the films that each company handles and get a sense of who's right start to contact those companies set up meetings, you're looking for a 10 minute meeting, you're looking for a pitch the goal, the producer in that first meeting is to get the listener to read the script. That's all. A lot of times producers will come in and say I'm trying to close a deal and read the script yet they don't have the understanding of the sales process. Each step is just to get to the next step.
Alex Ferrari 12:59
Now as far as how about if you have an actual finished project,
Jonathan Wolf 13:02
You have a finished film first congrats to anybody that does, right. The the process is is similar. What's different is you're not trying to get someone to read a script, you want to receive the film. Now our advice always is if we have a finished film, set up acquisition screenings, la New York, London, you know, 10 o'clock in the morning, three in the afternoon, not in the evening are not cast and crew people don't go to acquire films and their time off. These are business events, set up acquisition screens, get that film to be seen in a dark theater, not in to care 4k, not on a blu ray. That's, that's being watched on a small screen while the kids are screaming or the phone is ringing or things like that, you really want to present the film The right way, if you think it has any hope of seeing a theater in terms of its release, that's the manner that you want to show it. It's no different than a car show where they've got the lighting just right on the car and somebody is waxing and adjusting every hour, you need to make sure that you're unveiling your your hard work in the best way. And a lot of times you reject the company that says Well, we only take blu ray submissions. Most of those companies never acquired those anyways, they just want to see what's up out and out there in the marketplace and maybe a peek at what their competitors may or may choose to do. So. If you don't have if you haven't set that up your goal the AFM is to get the film seen. The best way to do that is I believe, is to select four or five or six scenes from the film that are great examples of the production quality of the work of the director, the actors skills, put them together on a secure website, whether it's Vimeo or something else, the whole thing is three, four or five minutes and send links to it and say here's selected scenes Take a look. We think it's perfectly positioned for your company. Again, the pitch is going to change whatever the company is the pitch is targeted uniquely at that company. And take a look at this. We'd like to meet with the At the FM we're confident we're gonna, you know, close the deal with the FM or right afterwards. The key thing here though, is the producer is not supposed to cut a consumer trailer, the producer is not showing the distributor how the distributor should market the film, the distributor, the producer is selecting the best scenes to show the quality of the film to get the buyer to go see it. b2b marketing and b2c marketing are very, very different. And producers frequently miss what that is. Even when these sales companies cut what they call product reels, not trailers, they cut product reels in a way to entice the territorial buyer. It Again, it isn't cut, like a 62nd or 92nd. trailer for a consumer. In this case, you're not even trying to do that you're trying to show here four or five, six scenes. The goal again, is to get the viewer to invest 90 minutes to watch the film to see if it's a good acquisition for them.
Alex Ferrari 16:03
So do you suggest no trailers? How about have a poster?
Jonathan Wolf 16:08
No, I mean, look, let me back up for a minute. Too many producers fall victim of a disease. And that disease is believing in the theory of transferable expertise. I am an expert in one thing, therefore, I'm an expert in all things, doctors and lawyers, you know, guilty of that all the time. producers. I'm an expert on my film. So I know which screens in the east side in New York, it should plan. I know the best costumes for the actors. I know how to cut the trailer, I'll help oversee the artwork. And that tends to be a disaster. The best producers the absolute best are the ones that bring all the experts around them and create teams for each film have the best of the best, the producer that says I know how to sell my film is the producer that usually fail. And so no, it is an artwork. It's it if the film is done, it's simply here's the film, take a look at the film, the professional is not going to be driven by the artwork. You know, thank you, Mr. producer for spending all this or miss producer spending all all the time to create art that you think I might use to market that to the consumer to motivate me, just tell me the genre. Just tell me who's in it. Give me get a sense of the storyline, and I'll decide if I want to watch the film.
Alex Ferrari 17:27
So then when you're at AFM, they see all these posters everywhere. Who are those posters aimed and those banners aimed at
Jonathan Wolf 17:34
The posters are aimed at the territorial buyers. These are distributors who have created art. They've created art for the packages or the finished films that they have the the the buyer from Japan who is looking for running a Blu Ray Blu ray distribution, the theatrical buyer from France, each of those buyers are looking are looking for film for their territory. And so this is what you see at the AFM is b2b marketing, not not B to C. Now some of it will carry over. Sure, but it's specifically designed, you'll see a lot of posters at the FM with little fine print at the bottom credits, not contractual. Why because at the AFM, they're creating art as a one off, that's only going to hang in that room and then off it goes. that's designed to get the b2b buyer into that sweet, it may not be the contractual credits that ultimately have to be on the poster. It's the art and the message and the cast. You know, you're very rarely unfortunately, going to see the writer listed on any of these posters. Why? Because the buyer is not looking for a writer. But contractually, it's gonna they're gonna have to be there on the consumer art. So these are b2b b2b posters, b2b art.
Alex Ferrari 18:43
Now, I've always I don't know if you can answer this question. I've always wondered, when you say like the theatrical buyer for France? Who puts that person in that position? Or, or the blu ray come? Like, are there just individual companies? Or like so there's multiple theatrical for France, like when you sell a country, like I just saw, I just sold my movie. And it my movie is going to be at AFM this year as well, that I directed. And we just sold South Africa for for Altair, you know, all media and we sold China as well. Who who puts these people in power? Are there multiple versions? Or is it just really just one person?
Jonathan Wolf 19:18
Well, first of all, Nobody puts them on power. There's much then golly, out there. Okay, good. You know, talking for a moment about the difference between independent distributors in the majors, the major studios, seven major studios, they have a web of distribution around the world, meaning a fox makes a film. They just send it the elements and they are to their offices in Japan, their offices in France, and their web distribution pushes that film out into literally every village Hamlet and burrow. That's what makes them a major. They have a web of distribution. Independence don't there's some independence who have distribution in their home country. But but beyond that they don't. So they look for local distributors, local distributors who are in the business of distributing film. And it's not the seven major studios. And there are distributors in every country. I mentioned, let's say in France entertainment film, I saw UK entertainment film distributors, a large local distributor. In Australia roadshow, you can go on and on. There are 1000s, there's probably about 3500. If you include all the broadcasters of distributors, VOD platforms, blu ray distributors, theatrical distributors around the world, these are the territorial buyers who are coming in to buy the film. So when you see a film distributed, you know, in the US by a studio or by a small independent, there are those same independence all over the world, they just don't exist in the US. They exist everywhere, who's distributing all the French language films, it isn't the seven studios. It's local French distributors, who is distributed Italian film and British film and, and, and, and Chinese films. And so all of those distributors are looking to acquire imported product, not just local product. And so it's it's a mix. And so nobody anoints them they have these are entrepreneurs, some of them are publicly held companies in their in their country. And they're coming to acquire all of the rights from from transactional VOD, all the way up to the theatrical rights.
Alex Ferrari 21:32
So it's it's it's similar, like if I was going to sell a movie to Disney, Disney would own Disney is one of many distributors in the United States you could buy from, but they would own the rights for the US if that was the deal that we made. And similar to every other country.
Jonathan Wolf 21:47
Key thing is, is you know, film is not like selling televisions, when you sell televisions, as a manufacturer, you can sell it to competitors, retailers across the street from each other. It doesn't matter. When you license film, you're always licensed exclusively by media and by territory. And so if a buyer comes in and says I'm buying the theatrical and blu ray rights for France, that distributor that buyer is the only person that's going to have that film in that country. And so this causes this causes a lot of negotiation, of course, because if the if films are highly sought after, there will be multiple buyers coming in making offers and it takes quite quite a while. It's one of the reasons the FM is seven days long. trade shows most industries are two and a half to three. FM is busy on day seven as we are on day one. But so anyways, nobody anoints them, these are entrepreneurs around the world, and they the independence are dependent on local distributors throughout the world because they all went away. the studio's wouldn't be buying the film's.
Alex Ferrari 22:52
Right, exactly. Now, can you talk a little bit about pre sales? And and also do they matter as much as they did in yesteryear?
Jonathan Wolf 22:59
Yeah, absolutely. There's been an evolution, just for those who are not familiar with it. Pre selling is bringing a package that's got a finished script cast attached to director a budget, a start date, and, and selling the film to territorial buyers, and hopefully selling enough of the of the world, whatever your needs happened to be, they're able to use those contracts those promises to pay to borrow against them at a bank and help the production financing. Pre selling. And I'll just come back to your question in a second pre selling does something else, which a lot of producers Miss. And that is, is it gives them marketplace pre acceptance. I'll use an example Jimmy Choo, makes shoes makes 10 or 15 shoes, and he goes to whatever the marketer or event that they have for the shoe industry. And he puts out all the shoes and all the retailers come by and they buy different shoes, and there's three or four shoes left that nobody bought. He made me really unhappy, put a lot of time and effort into it thought it was the best shoe in the world, goes in a shelf and never gets seen again. It's not going to manufacture the shoe that nobody wanted. In the in the garment industry. They get to to make samples. They pre sell the samples, they see what's going to be bought and they don't make the rest. Well, when you come to film. We've sometimes heard this phrase, a film that it should have never been made statement. But we've all heard it before. In almost all cases, that film did not go to a market and attempt to be pre sold. When you go to a market and you say here's the cast, here's the script, here's the budget, here's what we're doing. And you have a good portion of the world is coming in the different buyers, all the different buyers and what their needs are and their offers and looks like it's working terrific. And then you spend seven days at the American Film market. You have dozens and dozens of meetings of buyers all the world. At the end of the day got one or two offers and sort of a shrug of the shoulders. You're in the shoe world Put the shoe on the shelf. In the film business, he got to put the script on the shelf and walk away. And there are companies that do. And this is very, very difficult for the creative producer, who's really not the business person, but isn't, you know, just totally invested in, in the craft and then that that film, it's hard for them to walk away. So if a producer even has all of the financing, my advice is, that's terrific. Connect with the sales company, before you make the film. First of all, they may give you some marketplace advice, what actors work better than others that are not telling you to take it to your film your money, but they're going to give you some marketplace advice, then go to market, tempt to pre sell the film. If it doesn't pre sell, we can still go make the film. But you've been truly warned. You've been truly warned about what what might work and what might not. So pre selling works. And pre selling is still very active. But it's active at budget levels that start to get above 567 $800,000 pre selling and budgets below that it tends to be too small, the buyers don't need to guarantee a distribution pipeline of sorry films to fill the distribution pipeline at a budget to that level. So they'll tend to wait. And as budgets have bifurcated over the last 10 years, meaning they're getting bigger or smaller. 15 years ago, you could have made a $5 million horror film and made money on it. Today, it better be about 1,000,002 or less. The same thing, budgets for theatricals are getting much larger. Like there's always exceptions, and we saw one last week or two. But budgets are getting bigger or smaller, the bigger the budgets, they're much more dependent on the presale, once you get below about a half a million dollars much less because the producers tend to find the equity and the incentives and the deferrals. They need to make the film without pre selling. And so now I wouldn't go try and pre sell a $300,000 film. And by the way, there is a business. anybody listening that thinks with a question mark? What do you mean 300. There's lots of people that are making $300,000 films, selling for six, seven and eight, when all the deals are in and have a terrific business. There are niche markets for all kinds of films, you know, from most notably, I suppose, in the US faith based faith based filmmaking
Alex Ferrari 27:29
Family and families as well.
Jonathan Wolf 27:32
In that budget range. And and interesting left, it's still doing very well in blu ray. But so yes, presale is one of the key components of financing film, along with equity on with incentives along with deferrals to bring a package together.
Alex Ferrari 27:55
Now, can you explain to the audience and I preached this a lot on the show? What the importance is of cast, especially to an international community and an international buyer? Can you explain why it's so important? And in any suggestions to help a filmmaker along with that, that whole process?
Jonathan Wolf 28:14
Yeah, I'm just gonna skim on the surface of this question, because I'm not out there selling every day. And I think sales companies can give a more robust answer. But the the simple answer is, the buyer is taking a risk on the film, the more that the sales company can show the buyer how to sell it to the consumer. You know, a lot of times, the sales companies say, Hey, we cut four trailers, we want you to see all four look at which ones might work for your audience. We had 25 comps on the poster, we took five to finish. We're only using one in the US, but we want to show you the other four, because they may work better for your audience. Well, cast is another element where the territorial buyer can say, Ah, I have something to put on my artwork. I have a hook cast. You know, when when, when Tom Cruise is paid $30 million for a film. He's not 30 times better as an actor that someone's paid a million dollars, or 300 times better than someone's paid $100,000. And when you go above a certain level of payment for an actor, you're buying their marketability and your pre buying a marketing campaign. And so the question simply is, is does that person bring marketability and saleability to the film and and that's that's why for you know, all the way back to the beginning of film. Why some casts are paid more than others because they'll resonate with the audience because the pudding I get on keep using Tom Cruise for an example. You're guaranteed millions and millions of dollars. publicity. And you're also guaranteed a built in audience that will at least look at the trailer and pay attention. And it tells the audience, well, this film is gonna have certain production values, if this actor chose to do the film, it'll be noteworthy enough that I should take a look at it too, if they only had actors I've never heard of maybe all the good actors passed on it, you know, it's, it's almost like like giving it a seal of approval, that or reinforcement that the film is worthwhile. So it really has to do with marketing from just different angles. And it depends on what you know what the genre the film is, and who the cast is. which pieces would have just mentioned, you know, fit fit
Alex Ferrari 30:42
Right now, would you suggest that filmmakers before they cast before they sign the dotted line with a cast, go to distributors and find out what they think that that cast might be worth of that actor might be worth because I did a specific group of films with an unnamed actor I won't say his name, but he had diluted himself so much that whatever value he did have once was not people are like, I got five other movies with him in it, I really can't buy it. And the poor filmmaker was stuck in a holding the bag. So do you suggest that they should talk to distributors prior to signing those deals?
Jonathan Wolf 31:17
Yeah, and this comes back to the comment about pre selling gets you marketplace pre acceptance. You know, this is called the film business, not the film, endowment. Film arts and download, right, this is business and the goal of every producer is to get an audience. It's we're not painting paintings that we do out in a park, and then we show to our family and it hangs in someone's bedroom. You know, that's a swell thing for art. artists who want to do films for themselves. You know, I tell producers a lot, the director comes to you and says he just written a great script, he wants to direct and you ask him who's the film for, if the director tells you a specific audience, young women, middle aged men, whatever it is, you say, Great, the director says, well, the film is for me, the producer should just get up and run out of the room. Because Because this is a film business, and those working on it constantly have to face the audience. And everything they do, you know, all across the board even even when it comes to when you talk about casting, when it comes to to costumes, when it comes to language is this for girls 13 to 17, which means we need a PG on it in the US and then some similar in other countries. So the shots that we have the the the the costumes that we do, the language that we use has to be at a certain level, or we going somewhere else that the eye has to always be on the audience. And and so where wherever that that's going to fit. Um, you mentioned actor I'll mention and I'll mention one Nicolas Cage. Yes. So there was a time, there was a time where everybody I knew in distribution had a Nicolas Cage film, where everybody had one, right. And he became for a period of time, an independent film, very diluted, he was working nonstop. And there were five films when you're at the AFM had Nicolas Cage, either in pre production in production in post finished. And so yeah, anybody can can become diluted. But that's that's the actor's brand. And every actor manages their brand in in, in a certain way. And the producer has to understand when they're casting, that they're not just getting someone who's an actor. They're buying a brand, you know, to Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, they're buying a brand, whether it's a very small brand, or a large brand, they're still buying the brand. What's that brand? bring to them most both positive and negative.
Alex Ferrari 33:43
Now, can you discuss a little bit about where we are today in the DVD, blu ray and T VOD, and svod markets as opposed to yesteryear as well.
Jonathan Wolf 33:54
Yeah, I look, I probably don't have a lot of new data that we see the consumers you know, more more willing to prep prefers rather to just get the delivery online. I mean, it's, can you imagine that they're going to look back decades from now and say, to watch an hour and a half of television, people used to get in their car, ride in the rain, go around the block, looking for a parking space, go into a shop, you know, go through the whole process waiting in line, blah, blah, blah. And then if they didn't bring it back in two days, they started getting penalties like a like a library.
Alex Ferrari 34:29
It's barbaric. It's a burger.
Jonathan Wolf 34:31
I mean, talk about a transitory technology of VHS from the mid 80s till sure when it finally went away and blu rays as well. I mean, it's it's Goofy, that that it was actually there and truly hollywood, hollywood. Video stores along with blockbuster, they were bubbles, they wrote a great bubble. A lot of people made a lot of dough. But but it's it's technology now is is you know, moving that aside There will always be a packaged goods buyer, the same way people are still buying CDs. They're still buying vinyl. Though most of the listening is done through different digital platforms, and delivery systems, it's it's the same way when it comes to to film in the home. It's just moving in that direction. And you know, who ends up being the big players? We'll see we can we just saw this week the announcement of not movies everywhere, what is it? Movies time? Yeah. And, and so everything's going in that direction, where eventually you're going to, if you want the film digitally available for you, you're going to pay specific, a certain fee. And it may be a higher fee when the film was released, versus a lower fee, you know, later in the film is lized. And once you pay that fee, you have it forever. But what this is done and what the subscription business has done, it is destroyed the value in film in the ancillary markets. And let me explain what I mean 10 years ago selling a film at the AFM to let's say, an Italian buyer, that Italian buyer could forecast what the value of that film was worth in second cycle syndication in Italy on television, and years, five to 10 of the film's life, they would know what that value was, and so they could determine when buying that film, what the life of that film would be. And you would look at networks like TNT and TBS, and FX. And most of what you saw at night were reruns of of action adventure films and whatever their their flavor was. And you'd see it all the time. When subscription models moved up, led, obviously by Netflix, it slowly but swiftly destroyed the value of all of that syndication, not just in the US, but globally. Now, when buyers buy a film, they're looking at the revenue stream about three years out, not 25 years out, because once the film is if you have a Netflix subscription, the film is on Netflix, you're never going to watch it on TBS, what for? Why should I watch it with the commercials at a specific appointed time? I can download it anytime I want for free
Alex Ferrari 37:21
And edited and edited down for content as well.
Jonathan Wolf 37:23
Absolutely. And so one of the reasons that we've seen the huge growth and event television and series and all the specialized series and over 400 narrative series in the US is because these networks had no choice. The model that they started with of showing event film, right off of the theaters, TBS film, 18 months out of the theater going to be on TV is gone. Yeah, they have a few there, you can still see diehard, you know, whatever it is, but most of the stuff is gone, they have no interest in anything beyond a very, very narrow band that happens to fit what they need. And so suddenly, they their, their, their source of content when empty, and they had to create content. And so all of them started, I'm looking at American, you know, AMC stance, most people don't even think about anymore American movie classics, right. That's what it was. And all it showed was classic films, you know, completely gone. Now we're looking at their event series. And, and because why? Because all the films they want to show you can go find them on Netflix now. It doesn't matter destroy their business, but they managed to pivot.
Alex Ferrari 38:38
You're absolutely right. They did pivot and it they could have gone the way of blockbuster but they actually pivoted in Breaking Bad madmen and walking dead now.
Jonathan Wolf 38:47
Yeah. And so and and a lot of them are you know, the question is, well, then this is not the really top of our discussion today. How long? Is this also a bubble? Is this being fed by all the consumers who are unable to unbundle their cable and satellite packages? So fees are flow into all of these networks? And once that unbundling starts to get some momentum? Are the fees going to drop? Are we all paying taxes for films and TV shows that we never watch? And as we unbundle will, that will that source of financing go away? My belief is this is a bubble as well, we'll just have to see how long it lasts. And so so when you talk about the impact of the technology on film, what it's really done is it has taken a big bite out of the ancillary value, and so that the buyer has to look at what they're going to make in a short window, rather than than a long window.
Alex Ferrari 39:40
Now, can you talk a little bit about how distributors set up booths in the hotel rooms at the actual at the actual AFM and so people understand how it works when they walk around.
Jonathan Wolf 39:52
You know, for those who've been to a trade show before you go into big Convention Center and they're aisles and they're different companies, big and small. Whether it's a restaurant show or a furniture show or a Consumer Electronics Show, they're all pretty similar. What we're at the AFM is also a trade show in that way where we have what we call exhibitors with exhibition space. But what makes us different is we're not in the convention center, we're in a hotel. The AFM is held in Santa Monica at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. It's a 350 room hotel, we close the hotel for two weeks, no one sleeps in the hotel for two weeks. We all have the beds and most of the furniture out of the hotel, and the hotel turns into an office building. And we refer to our exhibition space, not as booths but as offices. And so you might have a large company like Lionsgate come and take 6789 rooms and create a suite of offices because they're large, you might find, you know, very small companies, let's say it's it's trauma, and Trump is coming in and taking a single office. You might studiocanal, one of the largest companies in France takes a large suite. And so they're turning their their space into offices. And they do this because this is about having meetings. It's not about the territorial buyer coming by, let me scan your badge. And I'll follow up with you in the months to come about our our next lineup, like you might have, you're selling couches, and here's this year's model, film is very delicate, it depreciates quickly, it has to go to market globally and simultaneously. So when films are being offered and packages are being offered. These are about closing deals with the AFM not creating sales leads. And it's one of the reasons the market is seven days long. Because these are negotiations, we will go into offices, they're sitting behind desks, the offices are filled with couches and desks and computers. And, and, and obviously lots of screens of different sizes. And it's about it's about closing deals. And so the companies who were there, the first few days that they're there this appointment show to there's no drop bys. But but the show starts right now in a couple weeks, I would imagine that most of the distributors, their schedules are three quarters full the first few days. Those companies are looking to license the packages and the finished film that they're bringing to the market. And those are their key meetings, the first few days as their schedule start to lighten up days four through seven. As they have time, they will start to have some interest. And I have to you know, caution. It's some interest in meeting with producers and starting to hear about new projects coming forward. Some are very interested in doing this. Some say they don't want to do it at all at the FM some will only do it when they have free time you catch them at the right the right moment. But every company there has to find new content and new projects. And so they all have meetings, it's a matter of how much they'll have their FM time they'll spend on that. But their first few days and their primary focus is licensing the films and projects they brought in I need to add one thing to this. We estimate that in the seven days about a billion dollars in deals will be done on independent film at the AFM. But the more interesting number for me is more than half of that over a half a billion dollars of business will be done on films that haven't started shooting yet. We use the phrase presale, but but if you start to wrap your head around a half a billion dollars in business on independent film that haven't been greenlit that's what happens at the AFM. You know, we hear sometimes about a producer with a film that got went to Sundance and at three o'clock in the morning, the distributor came along and saw the film and by by dawn they had a deal and the Sham was popping, we see one or two of those stories every year in the trade. I can promise you, there are dozens and dozens of producers that have worked with a sales company for many, many, many months and and put a project together, got the cast committed, got the bonding company in place found the equity found the incentives, but they need a portion of the of the world to be pre sold or they can't make the film. They don't have the green light or they sold a portion of the film. And they walk in on pins and needles and they walk out with a green light and there's more champagne corks pop popped after the AFM than at any festival. Because they they walk in with uncertainty and they walk out with a green light
Alex Ferrari 44:25
A billion dollars in seven days. That's very impressive. And it's consistent. It's consistent. I've been like because you've been with them since 98. Correct.
Jonathan Wolf 44:33
Right and and and one of the reasons you know people say well, why why even travel? Why do people go to trade shows why why do they go to film markets, they can watch everything on a screen technology is there. The fact is when the FM started in 81, there was VHS, you give a VHS and a FedEx box and send it off. The technology has always been there in one way or another to keep people from getting on planes.
Alex Ferrari 44:57
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Jonathan Wolf 45:08
The reason there are markets a few things first, markets very inefficient film markets, people who have to travel get on planes go for all over the world just for the privilege of buying. In efficient markets drive up prices, a distributor and a producer want the best prices possible. So there are loads to see and efficient marketplace. We have seen time and time again, entrepreneurs with websites saying we're gonna set up a website for you to buy and sell yourself. And the distributors have turned their back on them time and time again, because the distributors and producers don't want an efficient website don't want an efficient marketplace. inefficiency drives up prices. But the other more important thing is, markets create an auction environment. If you send an email to a buyer that says, hey, today, we're, we're now starting sales on this or that film. And here's the script and have a read. There's no sense that I need to move in the next 24 hours or that film might be gone. But people have traveled from all over the world. And they walk in the door of the Lowe's. They're learning about projects. And they only been announced in the prior two days for the prior three days or even that morning. That if you do the announcements right around the show, and you'll see a lot of these coming up in the coming week or so. This creates an auction environment. And this is auctions drive up prices. And this is the goal, the producer and distributor, they want to hold back and create that feeding frenzy, if you will. And we haven't seen the advances in technology in any way, reduce the amount of Business at the markets or reduce attendance. In fact, technology is just helping to increase the face to face value by being able to set up meetings, set up calendars, see trailers or product reels online, but know that the sales company says you can see the trailer, but I won't entertain offers until you arrive in LA. They want to create that auction environment.
Alex Ferrari 47:13
And at the end of the day, it's it's a very handshake, look you in the eye kind of business at the AFM. Is that correct?
Jonathan Wolf 47:20
Yeah, well, it is until it is that everything's in contracts.
Alex Ferrari 47:25
No, no, I of course in contracts, but I meant more like I need to like the relationships that you build and, and well, year after year, you keep meeting the same distributors and same producers and you start building relationships up. It's something that is is very it
Jonathan Wolf 47:39
Is that way for product lines. Yeah, I back aways ago, the producers involved in the Olsen twins videos, were considering a different international distributor. And I went to one distributor and said, Hey, this is you know, I can set up a meeting Do you guys want to chat? And the distributors said sales company said no. And I said why this is a slam dunk. It's also in 20. Videos distributor said, we sell theatricals, we have a certain clientele who come to us we don't sell to the buyers who are looking for that type of film. And we'd have to start a new segment of our business and it wouldn't be a good fit the same way, you know, film companies not like Macy's where they have everything from expensive Armani leather jackets to $10 sunglasses, distributors work in narrow bands, whether it's budget language, genre methods of financing, and so so you know, it's it, have to identify for each buyer, each of the buyers identify the distributors and have the product that that they're looking for.
Alex Ferrari 48:48
Now, can you also explain the whole layout of AFM meaning the lobby and then the different floors and what passes get you into what floor and all that kind of stuff? Because I've heard of that. Before I was actually at AFM, I heard the legends of like you need a pass to get this and the pool and deals are made out of out the lobby, you know, all that kind of stuff. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jonathan Wolf 49:09
Yeah, it's it's it's actually an unfortunate discussion. If you look at most trade shows, and if you look even at the Cannes Film market and the European film market, you have a badge and you walk in the door. And it's as simple as that. At the AFM. The lobby of the hotel is public space. And for a variety of reasons that have to do with security and other things. We don't have security on the front door of the hotel. If we did, we'd be like any of the other markets, you have a credential you're walking into the event, but the lobby is open. And therefore you need a badge to attend the market. You just don't happen to need a badge. If you want to stand around in the lobby. There are about 12 chairs in the lobby. Yes, I know, the place to go hang out and it's usually only those People who don't have a badge and are you know, and are just hanging out. It's it's not a place most people with a credential stack. Once you start to go upstairs or elevators, you need a badge to access the any other part of the hotel. And this is where all of the the sales company offices are. So yeah, there's a lobby, and you know, but But boy, you know, if you're hanging out in the lobby, you're sort of tagged to someone hanging out in the lobby. You know, we had Adam Carolla come and speak, when he had done his film, road heart, and he walked into the lobby through the lobby to get to the, to the seminar room that we had set up. And the interviewer asked him his first question. And before he answered the question, he looks at the camera looks at the interviewer and says, Did you see all the douchebags in the lobby? And he does a minute and a half riff, including things like if they'll kind of bomb this place, the world's supply of douchebags it take 10 years to replenish. went on and on. Of course, we had this pipe out into the lobby, we have screens in the lobby,
Alex Ferrari 51:13
Oh, no, no.
Jonathan Wolf 51:17
Dude, he's talking about you. So all I can save the listeners is, if you come into the FM come to the FM with a credential and your player. If you're hanging out in the lobby, and, you know, I gotta say, you know, there's some people who are actors or actresses and think if they're down in the lobby, they may get discovered and hang out in the bar. It's, it's, it's, it's just not what you do. It's really an indication of I'm not in the business.
Alex Ferrari 51:43
Got it. Now. Did Adam make it out Okay?
Jonathan Wolf 51:47
Yeah, he did. You know, I think we sort of snuck him out the back door, because he realized it wasn't safe to go through the lobby, his exit. But it's so you know, look, it was funny. This is my show. And I'm not insulting my show, of course. But I'm but I'm just trying to say that, that the people who have credentials when they're going to go grab a drink at the bar, they tend to go to a bar, one of the other hotels and not downstairs at the lows.
Alex Ferrari 52:15
And there's plenty and there's plenty of bars and restaurants around the lows, that there's so much business being done, if not at the lows around the lows.
Jonathan Wolf 52:24
Seen in some of the other hotel lobbies.
Alex Ferrari 52:26
Yeah, no question. Now. Can you explain what the IFTA is?
Jonathan Wolf 52:32
Sure. The Independent Film and Television Alliance, that's the parent organization of the American Film market. We're a trade association. And for those who don't know what a trade association is, trade groups are brought together by by industries, to perform services that are best done collectively, for that industry, whether National Restaurant Association, American Medical Association, Motion Picture Association. Usually those are things like public policy, advocacy, lobbying, research programs, that that all the participants in an industry can benefit from, without giving specific benefit to one over another. So competitors get together there 4000 trade groups in this country alone. They're viewed by the IRS is as nonprofits. It's a dues based system. In in the film industry, I mean, you have an NA B, the National Association of Broadcasters, you have the Motion Picture Association MPa, who only has seven members of seven studios, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, we have about 130 members, we represent them from a distribution standpoint, from an export standpoint, we're an international trade group, not domestic, we have members in about 21 or 22 countries. And the common bond is they are all exporting film and television, outside their home country. And so we provide programs and services and representation around the revenue flow. For the most part, we don't look after their needs on the production side, because production is very local. A member in Hong Kong who has an issue with production is going to have a very different issue than a member that might be in Australia, or a member in the UK or the US. But their export and distribution issues are very, very similar. And so in fact, we have more members in Hong Kong than we do in New York. And so, if you look at our website, don't go into a lot of the details as I FTA hyphen, online.org. You'll see, you know, touches on a lot of what we do, but the number one thing we do is advocacy, lobbying, the voice of the independence there are many, many areas where laws are being around the world where laws are being proposed, that could benefit the studios and hurt the independence. And a lot of times we work hand in hand with the MPAA. There's somebody in our office is probably on the phone every day with the NBA. Because various issues of protecting intellectual property, we're both on the same side. But a lot of other issues, we're on the same sides and, and we'll put together united front. But then sometimes we are on the opposite sides of the table, on on on some issues. And so I'll give you a simple example, if if in a country, there, were going to pass a tax a two cent tax on the box office, there was going to go into a fund that was going to help local production or local distribution, it's possible that the MPAA might be there saying, well, this is just going to be, it's going to hurt box office revenue, it's going to decrease our revenue, we don't think it's right, blah, blah, blah, and a competitive, we would be in there on the other side of the table with the local distributors saying this is good, because independence are dependent on strong local business, infrastructures and film to have customers. There's a big, big move for the last five years in the UK and the EU to create a single digital market. Meaning that if you license your film in any country, for and digitally in any country, it must simultaneously be available in all countries now. Wow. Well, this destroys territory licensing, right? But it's perfect. If you're a studio or Amazon or Netflix, no problem, you just put it out all at once. Right. But if you're licensing by territory, and suddenly your little license in Denmark, that person has the right to show the film in Italy and Sweden and, and everywhere else. You've destroyed that value. We've spent five years constantly in the EU, building coalitions to fight that that legislation. So you know, I'm not the expert on this. And I'm not the one that's sitting in the EU. But but but there are many, many areas where the business model of the independence is so different than the business model of the majors, that the independence need that representation to assure that they stay alive.
Alex Ferrari 57:01
That's, that's fascinating. I had no idea about the IFTA and what they did. So thank you for, for helping us out as we as we continue to grow as an industry. Now, you guys do a lot of educational and panels at the AFM. Are there any conferences or panels that you are personally excited about?
Jonathan Wolf 57:23
Well, I'm always always have a lot of fun at the pitch conference, the pitch conference, it's a little different than most pitch conferences, most pitch conferences, you're hoping someone might want to be involved with the film or the giving you advice on how to change the film up a little bit to make it more marketable. Our pitch conference doesn't critique the content, it critiques the quality of the pitch. It's all about the sales process. And we have about 25 filmmakers to come up on stage, we have a panel of three experts, they do a two minute pitch, and then the pitch is critiqued. And, and the audience never leaves. Everybody is taking notes not on the project. But learning how to pitch because one of the problems that we see in our industry is that that selling the sales process, the value of the salesperson is horribly undervalued. Sales is one of if not the top paying profession in the world, much more than doctors and lawyers. But we as consumers actually don't come in contact with salespeople we think we do. But we don't. Yes, if it's a house or a car, that's it. But I'm not talking about someone behind the cosmetics counter at Macy's. But if you sit and look around anywhere who sold the asphalt in that street who sold the metal in that building, most salespeople are a b2b business. And it's a very, it's a very highly skilled area. And producers don't understand that they're in the business of b2b selling. And and so we try and help them understand creative producers, what the sales process is about. The best example is C at the FM and we'll see it over and over. Even people listening to this are going to do what I'm about to say don't do which is they will walk in, they'll meet someone. They'll say hello, they might ask their name if they get that far, and then they'll start to tell them about their pitch. Have you ever walked on a car dealer's lot? The car dealer walks up to you and says Hi, my name is Frank. I've got the perfect car for you. It's a red four door it gets great gas and the blah blah, blah, blah, blah tells you all about the car. No, the salesman first qualifies the prospect. When are you buying What are you looking for? What's your economics? What's your budget, and then tailors his pitch to meet the needs of the prospect? Over and over? I will I will walk by offices at the FM an internal be out there. You know person taking messages. It's going to schedule. How's it going? great company pause for a second, let's say yeah, I've just heard three pitches today. I'm an intern and they keep pitching me. But it happens. Because there's there's this feeling in social media, it's create a little bit of this. There's a feeling of, if I just put it out everywhere, like pixie dust somewhere, someone will mention it magically, I'm going to get that that that phone call. It's faith based pitching. And, and that's, that's not what works. The first thing, the salesman producer, does not the creative producer, but the salesman producer is does is understands what the buyer wants. You know, we talked about the sales companies. Let me let me just go off topic for a second. We talked about the sales companies that the AFM and their, their licensing to buyers from all over the world. These are the best pitchers in the world, bar none. And I'm not exaggerating, think if you're a salesperson for a film company, the acquisitions department has put together three projects and they said here they are. There's a romantic comedy, there's an action adventure, and there's a real tough drama, American drama, and they're on pre production, your job is to go sell them at the AFM. That's your job, every 15 minutes, you're meeting with buyers from around the world don't always speak English. Well, they have different needs and different things. And every 15 minutes you're pitching, and you're actually selling and closing deals on films that you weren't involved in packaging, that you may or may not like, it doesn't matter. And this is your job and you don't sell films, the films don't get made and you don't have a job. These are the best pitchers in the world. And, and the skill is so undervalued by producers, they think it's like like their firstborn, I know how to dress it, I'm going to you know, hold his hand walking to school for the first day, I'm going to tell the teacher how to talk to my child, you know, they have to hold on, they won't, they won't put it in the hands of someone else. You know, in my advice, I tell a producer, find a sales producer, your creative producer, and then don't go to the meetings. And they'll look at me in horror. Like what do you mean, I don't go to meeting you're sold a house or a condo? The first thing that salesperson says I'm showing the house today get out?
Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
Yes, you're absolutely right. Yeah,
Jonathan Wolf 1:02:16
You're just gonna mess it up. Because all you're gonna do as a producer who loves the film, is focus on how much you love the film, not on how to connect, literally connect with that buyer. You know, you sell in cars, and I gotta admit, I sold cars for two years, when I was in school. somebody walks into the lot, you know, I want to know all about, I want to know everything about so that I can tailor the car, I can tailor the pitch rather, to meet what they need the same thing the buyer walks in, what do you need, I need I need action adventures with cast. Well, great film that you had that might not have a lot of action, it just became a lot more action. And that cast we're looking for I'm gonna focus on the one name that happens to be, even though it might be a small roll. Well, I'm just you know, I'm just giving sure they know how to pitch. And and this is sorry, what got me off on this tangent. I don't even remember now. But but it's just so so important. And a salesman producer knows this.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:15
Right? You know, you were talking about the pitch fest at.
Jonathan Wolf 1:03:19
So it's trying to help. My goal in this in this in this pitch conference is not to make the room full of great pitchers, it's 600 people in the audience. They don't all be great pitchers. My goal is for most of them to open their eyes and saying I shouldn't be doing this. Right. They're not the cinematographer. They're not the set designer. They don't need to be the pitcher. It's for them to realize I'm outside my comfort zone. And the project is at risk. If I'm the one that's going to stay in the deep end, I need to find an expert to connect with. And that's one of the advantages of being at the AFM. It'd be 15 to 1700 producers among the 7000 are there 15 1700 producers in about 30 countries, it's an opportunity to find those producers that can pitch and can sell.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:09
It's very similar to when you're making a movie you you hire a cinematographer, you hire production designer, you hire a writer because they're outside of your comfort zone and I think everyone forgets the the marketing aspect of things and the sales aspect of things and they think they can do it all themselves for some reason.
Jonathan Wolf 1:04:25
I have producers that every year two or three producers will come and take an office at the AFM and say I don't need a sales agent. I'm Sally saving the five to 20% fee and I know my film better than they do and I'm going to sell it myself and invariably they buy ads to do all these things the doors that open no one comes in and and they have a horrible experience and they write to me tell me I don't know how to run a film market after a minute by the conversation we had that I said don't do it. And and it's the same reason we don't see a sign that says for sale by owner on a house. You know, as much as as much as we think Third up doing is opening the door, and then standing around watching TV while people walking around the house, and then I'm paying 5% of them just to stand around on a Sunday? Well, yeah, because there's more to it that you don't see. And, you know, selling a film internationally, most buyers won't buy from a producer. First. And I guess most important is, is they're not sure that the producer can actually affect a full international delivery. Or that it's more than just Texas titles and fill them any tracks. There's a whole lot of stuff, marketing materials, chain of title, all these things, they all have to happen at the same time globally. Hopefully, boy, you know, you buy a film, you find out a cut released in a different country three months earlier, now it's being pirated in your country, you're screwed. So unless they can steal it, you know, real, you know, love real low offer. when when when buyers see something for sale by a producer, they don't know who it is and what it is in their business with them before it's a one off, they just stay away. They don't even take the meetings.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:07
Right! It's more then I've heard that before that they will not. It takes years before they can build relationships, if we're going to the FM every year and they're like, oh, he see he's back. Oh, she's back. Okay, then slowly, but surely, you start building those relationships to the point where like, you have that connection. But generally speaking, they don't.
Jonathan Wolf 1:06:25
And that's because in pre sales seller, the pitcher is saying, you get through the whole pitch, there's one underlying comment, which is, the film is going to be profitable for you. Notice, I didn't say the film is going to be good, the film is going to be profitable. And and that, ultimately, is the promise that every picture is made. When you're a buyer saying I'm in love with the film, then I love with the story. They're in love with the profit potential the film, and and so the pitchers are pitching the profitability of the film, because that's what the b2b pitches. It's not about what you are going to experience, the joy, the crying the laughter, they are pitching profitability. That's and that means the trailer, and the artwork, and everything is based on pitching profitability. That's a totally different marketing campaign, then you go to a consumer, where you're pitching the experience, and and beat it. That's why the b2b sales is very different. And that's why when you get to the, when you get to the producer trying to do their own pitch, they're really pitching and selling the consumer experience. They're not pitching the profitability that the buyer might have.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:38
That I mean, Jonathan, this interview has been eye opening and amazing, and I really appreciate you taking the time out to to drop amazing knowledge bombs on our on the tribe. I have a couple questions I asked all my, my guests if you have if you have some time?
Jonathan Wolf 1:07:54
Alex Ferrari 1:07:55
What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Jonathan Wolf 1:08:01
Well, can you define filmmaker,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:03
director, producer, someone who actually wants to produce a film? So let's say producer,
Jonathan Wolf 1:08:08
Okay, yeah, producer is better than writer, or director. So first of all, there are three kinds of producers. There's a creative producer who really worked with writers and, and develop stories and understands the texture, the script, there's a salesman producer, we talked about a lot. You know, walks the walk, talks to talk knows how to sell anything. Then there's the line producer, who takes the great script and the dough that the sales producers raised and knows how to work with, with, with the unions and the location scouts, and how to get on time and time. So you know, really working backwards in that group. Line producers just need experience. You need to just get on sets start at the bottom work their way up. You know, sales producers, they don't need any advice for me. They're better at it than I am. They they know how to make the connections, they know how to work a room there. They know who the players are. My advice for the floor, the only advice I really have is for the creative producer. Find a sales producer. Find a sales producer, if you're the creative producer and you believe that you can really work well and develop a develop film that's going to resonate with an audience. Then find the sales producer who has faith in working with you. As you develop it and work as a team. Most producers are producing teams. And sometimes they do both. Each one one develops the other pitches, sometimes that one of them has a better idea of how to work the pitch than the other. But I would say fine, fine teams. One of the problems of creative producers have it's similar to writers First of all, a lot of creative producers. Let's face it a writers producer so they could sell their script. Compared to music, if you're a drummer and say, Oh, I want to be in a band. Well, I need someone plays bass and where do I find these people? I'm just sitting at home in my garage with my drums. You Get out there, you start meeting people, you go to clubs, you do gigs, you see gigs, and you start to find people that you can start to create relationships with writers are terrible at this. There used to be sitting alone, you know, a drummer needs a band, they need everybody else, you just can't put a headset on, listen to other people's music, play along with it, you need other people. So you're really into that collaborative process. writers are used to sitting alone with a door shut and their thoughts. And, and they really struggle at the process of networking connecting. So all I can really say is when you're not writing, it better be building relationships. And it isn't always with Let me tell you about the film that I've got, you know, it's it's building relationships, building trust, finding the producer, who can who can sell.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:46
And can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Jonathan Wolf 1:10:53
Well, you know, I don't read enough. But it was a book in political science in college, called the irony of democracy,
Alex Ferrari 1:11:04
Jonathan Wolf 1:11:06
And the theory or the theme of that book was that in all democracies, you have political institutions, you have hierarchies, whether they're their government institutions, non government organizations, and everything that ultimately have people at the top who are elites. And theory, this book was, elites have more in common with other elites even have opposing views than they do with the people who they represent. And that the irony of the democracy is that it's those elites that work in concert with others, not always to the benefit of those they represent. And so too long time ago, and I haven't thought about it many years, but I got a book that, that that stuck with me. That's it, it's probably Long, long out of print. It's a college textbook.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:02
Great, great, great book sounds like a great book. And then what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in your industry, or in life?
Jonathan Wolf 1:12:15
Every day, I realized I know less. When I, you know, when I got out of school, I knew everything. I know less, and tomorrow, I'm going to discover I know even less.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:29
Jonathan, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to the tribe and myself. So and it's again been an absolute pleasure having you on the show,
Jonathan Wolf 1:12:36
Happy to do and really enjoyed the discussion.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:39
Well, I know a lot more about AFM than I did before this interview for without question, and I want to thank Jonathan again for being on the show and, and being so candid about the entire process of AFM and how to really sell a movie what what buyers are looking for, and I feel it again. So many times filmmakers forget that this is a business. As my friend Suzanne Lyons says the word there show when there's business and the word business has twice as many letters as the word show for a reason. You know, it is so important to understand how to make a movie but is that as equally important on how to sell a movie and actually make money and to maintain a sustainable career as a filmmaker and as a film producer or writer or director. Now I know of a few tribe members who are going to be at AFM, I'm going to be there on November 1, I'm going to be walking around, if you guys are going to be there and love to catch a drink, get together, I'll be there most of the day of flying around and going to events and things like that. So please reach out to me, let me know if you guys are going to be there. We can meet in the lobby, we can hang out, we could do some stuff. It'll be a lot of fun. And if you guys are interested in going it is on November 1 through the eighth in Santa Monica, you can still get passes, you can still get tickets to go. And definitely if you are in the Los Angeles area or can get here. And you want to learn how to sell your movie and see how movies are really sold. I highly suggest you guys attend. Because it's definitely a amazing educational experience for all filmmakers. Whether you're going to self distribute or not self distribute, you should know how others are making money selling their movies. Now I'll put links to everything we spoke about in the episode at indiefilmhustle.com /192 in the show notes, and if you guys haven't already, please head over to our YouTube channel. It is blowing up we are getting close to 10,000 subscribers, which I know in the grand scope of YouTube is not that big. But for us. That's pretty big. And I'm really excited. And it's growing very fast, especially with our new shows that we have going on the director series and the indie film, hustle film school as well as replays of the podcast and I've got some big stuff coming up in January. And actually, since I want to take this moment to see if you guys can help. I've got a show idea that I want to do for the channel. And it's called, ask Alex. I've done a few of those on the podcast, but I'm actually going to create a YouTube show where I'm going to answer one question from the tribe every day for 30 days in January. So we're going to, I'm going to release them every day in January. And I need questions. Any questions from you guys? So what I want to do is get your questions, your name will be read out on the show, and I'll also put up your your Twitter handle, as well. So you can get a little bit of press and little bit push on your stuff as well. And I want questions about everything in the film industry. What your your what your questions are about what's going on in the business? Should I go to film school? Should I not go to film school? How should I make this? How should I do that? Anything you want, I will be an open book and try to help you as much as humanly possible. So it's an experiment, guys, I'm going to do this for 30 days. And if it's a if it's a big experiment and works well, and people really seem to like it, it might be something I'll do a more continuous show on. But that's the plan. And I am hopefully going to be going as well to Sundance this year. Again, I'm going to be doing a special series of interviews like we did last year, maybe a little bit different, a little bit bigger. We're going to see what we can do. I'm going to create a lot more content coming in from Sundance as well this year. So I'm hoping I'm still trying to figure it all out. I'm hoping I'll be able to do that as well. So for your questions, please email [email protected] That's [email protected] Now I will be selecting 30 questions for the show. So hopefully your question will get in and if it doesn't get in, don't worry. I'm going to do my best to answer those questions. in later episodes of the podcast. Maybe later episodes of the Ask Alec show on YouTube. We'll see. So thank you guys for listening. I hope you got a lot out of this episode. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- Attending AFM
- How to Work with AFM
- ASK ALEX Show – Submit Your Questions – Email: ifhsubmissions (at) Gmail (dot) com
- The Guerilla Rep: AFM Distribution Success on No Budget
- Marché du Film (associated with Cannes International Film Festival)
- European Film Market (EFM, associated with the Berlin International Film Festival)
- Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART)
- Hot Docs (For Documentaries)
- Independent Film Week / Project Forum (formerly known as IFP Market)
- TIFFCOM (Content Market at the Tokyo International Film Festival)
- Producer’s Foundry Film Marketing Workshops
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
- Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)