If you haven't read Part 1 - the Calgary trip - you should check it out now. ***************************************************
What the hell am I doing drinking in LA?
Los Angeles. It's a hell of a town. Don't get me wrong: I love it. I admire it. And I am also respectfully terrified of it.
Cory and I said goodbye to Natalie in Vancouver and arrived at LAX on a Friday. We headed to the delightful Comfort Inn on Santa Monica Blvd. because it offered the "cheapest" rate while still being close enough to the conference. Oh and free breakfast in the morning. With the exchange rate being what it is, having a least one meal covered was a godsend.
We were in town for the American Film Market and Conferences, the self-styled "premiere global marketplace where Hollywood’s decision-makers and trendsetters all gather under one roof." We spend our first night watching Canadian movies on American Netflix and drinking wine and beer we bought at a 24-hour pharmacy.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed innocence the next day, we headed to our first conference: Pitching Essentials. Here we got a great list of do's and dont's when pitching your film project and watched a bunch of pre-selected filmmakers get 2 minutes to woo the panel. We quickly realized that our Fringe experience was going to serve us well in this case as pitching is eerily similar to flyering a line-up.
We then had a great meeting with our production mentor on the documentary, Dale Windle of Aventus Films in Ottawa, who was also in town for the Market to settle some deals on his own projects. Dale has been instrumental in helping us make connections and navigate the business side of filmmaking. Plus he bought us lunch so he's definitely aces in my book!
Since everything was taking place by the Santa Monica pier, we decided to walk the beach and practice our own pitch for some of the meetings we had scheduled throughout the week.
Then we made our way to the Loews Hotel for an introductory session on "How to Work the American Film Market" for first time attendees.
Now, let's talk about the Market. Basically, a week before this gigantic movie market begins, the Loews Hotel empties out all the furniture from every single room in the building. These rooms have all been rented by a variety of movie professionals like distribution companies, sales agents, production companies, film boards, various industry professionals, ect. and are all turned into offices. The. Entire. Building! (And even some in the hotel next door.)
The entire building is packed and security is super tight. If you do not have your special badge, you are not going anywhere. And sometimes even with the badge you get stopped as Cory and I learned the hard way one evening (don't worry, I charmed our way out of it - story for another day). It's crazy busy, overwhelming and reeks of money and desperate hustle. Every one there has an angle and is looking to make it happen.
As many people were more than happy to tell us, there is no money in documentary films (which frankly I think is debatable because there is money in everything if you just look hard enough), so plenty of folks wanted nothing to do with us on that basis alone. As two Canadians in shorts (because dammit we're in California!) with our little fringe movie, we were at the bottom of the barrel.
On day 2, after a few very humbling experiences at the panels where we felt completely out of our league, we both went our separate ways for a palate cleanse. Cory used our badges to go watch a couple of the movies being screened onsite and I went to audit an acting class. I think we both needed to be around passionate and creative people to remind us why we were doing this in the first place. And it worked!
See here's the magical thing about being at the bottom: there's nowhere to go but up. As an acting teacher once told me, you never want to be at the top of the class. If you are, find another class because you won't learn anything here. So we made a pact to buckle down and learn as much as we could. We attended every panel, met a lot of really cool and interesting people (including a few other documentary filmmakers #represent), and even had some successful meetings with agents and distributors. Oh and we made sure to have some fun because who knows when we might be here again?
We left with a greater understanding and appreciation of the filmmaking process and I am incredibly grateful for the experience.
Like most people who arrive in the City of Angels, we had a few stars in our eyes. Fortunately, we weren't around long enough to have them removed. Because if I learned anything from the barrage of awful posters and film trailers that played on loop in the conference shuttle, our movie is going to be awesome.
You can bank on that.
Unless you are the actual bank... Please stop calling me.