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November 3, 2021
“All of it Happened on a Thursday” short film poster screened at AFM 2021.”

Yesterday I attended the first day of the American Film Market event, which is being held online this year from November 1 to November 5, 2021.  It’s terrific, they did a wonderful job converting this massive event to an easy to navigate site.  Usually, AFM is held in person each year in November in Santa Monica, CA.  It’s a huge event with major film and television industry impact.

This year you can attend workshops, screen dozens of films 24/7, meet up and network with other industry professionals, and further your career and have fun doing, completely online.  Tickets are available to everyone, for more information and tickets, visit americanfilmmarket.com.  You can also screen the workshops afterward at your convenience in case you didn’t get the chance to attend when it is being presented.

Yesterday the first event I covered was The Filmmakers Podcast presentation called “How to Make Your Movie.”  (One note, I discovered the online site does not work well with Chrome, but when I switched to Safari, all went swimmingly.)

In the “How to Make Your Movie” workshop, presented by four industry professionals, they offered plenty of great advice to filmmakers at all levels.  For example, the importance of developing personal relationships, how having a good treatment is vital, since not everyone has the time to spare to read your screenplay, and to try to keep in touch with contacts without being a pest.  “Just be a person.”  Also research your contacts beforehand to connect effectively.

Most of all, value your contact’s time and try to develop that personal connection so that even if things don’t work out at this juncture, perhaps sometime down the road they will remember you positively and be willing to help on your next project.  All great advice!

Later last night, I screened two films through the on-demand screening room, which is available 24/7.  The first film I watched was “All of it Happened on a Thursday” a short film about 20 minutes long, written and directed by Scott Vogel, and produced by Kurt Bonzell (who also edited and acted in the film). This film won the award for Best Comedy Short at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2021.

“All of it Happened on a Thursday” is a tight, fun short that is the amusing story of Frankie, a very handsome young man, but not quite the sharpest tool in the shed.   Delightful!  The short also stars the award-winning actress and artist Sally Kirkland, who is a natural, just wonderful to watch on screen.

Sally Kirkland is a well-established long-term actress who appeared in among many other roles, including Bruce Almighty and JFK.  Note, as is often the case in short films, Producer Kurt Bonzell wears several hats here, and edited and acted in the film along with his producing responsibilities.

This short is a proof-of-concept film that is seeking funding for a feature length project.  An amusing, fresh little gem that deserves checking out.

Next, I screened the film Spotlight on German Films and Talent, which itself highlights current outstanding German films that are now making the rounds in festivals and just being released.  It is astonishing the amount of high-quality films Germany has produced.  This film included excerpts from current German cinema, along with brief interviews and explanations from the writers, directors, producers, and actors from the films.  It itself is an excellent film and really a great glimpse into the German cinema scene.

One scene that stood out was Kristen Stewart’s interview about her role in Spencer.  Spencer looks to be a fascinating psychological drama directed by Pablo Larrain that explores Diana, the Princess of Wale’s decision to end her marriage to Prince Charles in 1991.  It has received widespread critical acclaim, with critics especially noting Stewart’s outstanding performance as Diana. Note it will be released in the United States and United Kingdom this Friday, November 5, 2021.

In the film, Ms. Steward said about the role: “Never have I been on such a beautiful movie, such craft, every single detail had been just tenderly taken care of.”  She added that she loved shooting in Germany and appreciated the amazing crew.

There are about a dozen other films highlighted in this Spotlight and it demonstrates that German filmmakers are creating remarkable films at the highest level.

Then this afternoon, on day two of the festival, I attended a production conference headed by Richard Botto, Founder of Stage 32 (itself a networking and educational site for filmmaking and television professionals, visit stage32.com).  It was called “The Casting Effect: How Talent Choices Impact Every Production.”  This was an excellent overview of the importance of strong casting, with several panelists and industry experts discussing the challenges and pitfalls of casting decisions in film and television production today.  It was filled with helpful advice for filmmakers of the importance of being passionate about your project, treating colleagues with respect and consideration, and playing the long game.  They mentioned filmmaking is a long process, and it can take years to bring one project to fruition.

Finally, I popped into the Networking Pavilion where you can virtually and spontaneously meet face to face with other people attending AFM, and also arrange for other networking business meetings.  It was easy to join in and I soon met Yissendy Trinidad, of Trinidad Entertainment Group.  She is a director, producer, writer, and actress who was at the festival looking for funding for her feature films and a new TV series.

The AFM is on-going until Friday, November 5, 2021 and you can easily get tickets and find out more information at americanfilmmarket.com.  They are planning to have AFM back in person in 2022 at their regular location in Santa Monica, California.  In the meantime, the organizers have done a remarkable job transitioning this enormous event into quite a memorable online experience.

There are literally dozens and dozens of films you can screen anytime during and for a time after the festival is over, plenty of live workshops, networking opportunities, and a chance to meet with other industry professionals to advance your projects or learn more about the industry.  It’s really quite an amazing experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the fascinating world of film and television production.

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