Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AFI: DAY 7 & 8 and the American Film Market (AFM)

Day 7-- Skipped it!

AFI Fest Wraps UP!

Friday Day 8
The last day of the AFI Film Fest was held in Santa Monica along with the American Film Market(AFM). I headed down there primarily to scout the AFM hotels but then I caught another stop gap animation movie called The Attic, which was very quaint.

AFI Film Festival and AFM:
I'm in some pain from attending all the events but I'm having fun! I have 2-3 more days to go so I'm trying to do as my doctor recommends and not over do things. On Friday I did my usual Friday morning at church then I headed out again, this time to Santa Monica for AFM (the American Film Market) where nearly 800 million in deals for all the upcoming movies are made. It was okay attending the AFM but most of the people there where loud white men making "important" deals on cell phones. They were so full of themselves-- it was worst than being in a room full of male surgeons(lol).

On Saturday I attended AFM's Pitch Me! conference and heard pitches of movie idea and scripts by wanna be writers and producers. The room was packed with about 300 people, mostly established independent writers, producers and directors from all parts of the world with about 60% from the U.S. It was set up just like one of our medical conferences or board review programs so I felt right at home). You know what I mean right? Rows of parallel white cloth covered tables with evenly spaced sterling pitchers of water and clear drinking glasses, hotel pens and small writing pads also endorsed with the hotel's name.

The movie pitches were done by students ages 20's - 40's in the AFI(American Film Institute) programs and many were scared or unsure in their presentation obviously having not done much public speaking or presenting before. All I could think or when I listened to them was how amateurish the presentations were and that how anyone from med school would have blown the panel away. In fact, thanks to my surgery rotation, I can still present in my sleep(lol).

Each pitch was followed by a critique and feedback session done by a panel of established producers and film buyers. The panelist encouraged the presenters to pretend that they were in a friendly one and one in a studio executives office and that they were simply story tellers telling stories. I heard some of the worst and most ungodly movie ideas which had won writing contests and had some level of scholarship or funding attached! Two had gay themes but no plot and two movies seemed racist to blacks. Another, written by a former divinity student, told a blasphemous and crazy story of the devil being really truth and light (the audience really scoffed at that one). Some stories were okay but the writers had not fleshed out the concepts enough in the presentations and others were just plain rip offs of other movies that were done way better.

I was very disappointed not just as a Christian but as a writer and movie lover! The movie ideas were so-o-o bad that it was embarrassing to listen to them pitch it. Writers must write interesting stories with good structure and plots no matter who the story is about, no matter the century... nor whether zombie, gay, black, teen, gender, age or whether you are an alien from outer-space. Imagine, these students pay $40,000 a year in tuition for a 2 year program. That's 3x more than I paid for my medical education... way more than I paid for my entire education and they still can't tell a good story. Thankfully, most of the audience agreed and laughed(not in a good way), cringed, gasped or groaned for at at least 75% of the pitches. Only the scripts that had a compelling or sympathetic hero/heroine in a good v.s. evil plot or a fulfilling spiritual journey got good applauded. We all liked the one of the Native American teen on a poor reservation which was pitched by the almost tearful Native American filmmaker who wrote it.

At the end, a film buyer/financier stood up and asked to speak to only one group, the group who pitched a redemption story about a clone on a journey to find the original version of himself (so it was sci-fi with a "feel good" message). Finally, there were 3 slots for pitches from the audience and we placed our names or business cards in a bowl which they randomly pulled from. I was too ready to pitch one of my movies but I didn't get picked. Later, I had a chance to do a 2 minute video pitch for a contest sponsored by AFM and the People's Choice Awards but they wanted me to sign a 4 page release giving them rights to my likeness and recorded pitch and to use it as they like indefinitely. I declined and complained to them about the legal ramifications for anyone signing such a broadly stated release.

One good thing about attending AFM was that I finally made it to the Santa Monica pier with its carnival rides, Ferris wheels and Cirque de Soliel was playing in large tents on the beach. I saw the Pacific for the second time too, the first was from a distance when I was on an Amtrak train when I went to San Diego for Comic Con last year. This time I crossed the boardwalk to the sand, waded in and boy was it cold! Still it was nice so I was praising God and whooping real loud which attracted a few kids who were also experiencing the ocean for the first time. Kids are so-o-o special. They joined in and we splashed around up to our knees then we ran screaming from the cold waves as more waves rolled in and chased us. All the parents laughed and smiled at how we were carrying on and they took video and pictures of their kids good time. I made real sure I wasn't in any of the videos or pictures this time though. I've learned my lesson(lol)!

Just a minute to give God all the praise...
God is amazing!!! First, the Film festival made all tickets free this year in a year I could not otherwise afford to attend. Then I stood in the back of long lines for the tickets and still got front row seats to nearly all the premieres. The rush line for the movie Precious was too long b/c word had gotten out that Oprah and the "who's who" of black stars would be there. I had gotten there late and I know that the wait in line would have been too much for my back and I still may not have gotten in. Thankfully, a newly made "rush-line friend" who writes for a magazine gave me an "up" to near the front of the line and no one beat me down though I had just walked up(lol).

Then I was considering staying home the next night because I couldn't stand in line another night and it was getting colder but the festival organizers e-mailed me that tickets were available on-line. I quickly sent an RSVP and snapped up 4 then I hooked up my line buddy and the photographer. We walked right into the premiere right next to the red carpet as the arrivals came with all the flashing cameras bulbs and cheers from the crowd. We didn't have to stand or wait in line and we walked through the front door not the side entrance. We had a front row seat for Robert DeNiro and all the other stars.

I've seen more red carpet movie premieres, cocktails poolside, and celeb filled after parties in this week than my whole 2 years in L.A. and since I am not shy, I have talked with everybody. I've spoken one on one with many famous talents (directors, producers, writers, actors, writers) here this week! I also have met many "below the line people" (assistants, camera operators, sound mixers and indies). I am learning a lot about the ins and outs of this industry and I am enjoying watching every movie I can for free(lol). Thanks to God, my access here has been amazing! God can open any door and my cup is truly running over! It's like a miracle! Believe God!!!!!

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