American Film Market has been happening for 37 years. Since before I was born! People of the movie hustle ilk have gathered in Santa Monica to make stories come alive on screen. It’s estimated that a billion dollars in deals are made that week. Having just learned of AFM (thanks to a tweet by Lift-Off Film Fest‘s James Bradley), realized I’d already be in the Los Angeles area during that time.
“AFM is for bad-asses,” said Alicia J. Rose (creator of the coolest new web series out of Portland, “Benefits of Gusbandry“).
Was trying to get her to go with me. “But I am a bad-ass. And so are you!”
She would kill it there. Besides, I’d read you shouldn’t go to AFM alone. You don’t want to look out-of-place. Or worse: like an actor, trying to be discovered. Producers and directors see right through them.
Too late to apply for a press pass, was determined to investigate. Reached out to a couple Portland peeps who I’d heard were going. Contacted dozens of people on Couchsurfing, before finding one or two in the target zone who were willing and able to host. The couches in Santa Monica are in high demand – some hosts get four or five CS requests, daily. Also moved my Tinder beacon to that area. Just in case.
Arrived Tuesday, visited Kerry in Koreatown. Went for nachos and split a pitcher of margaritas, before catching a ride to Santa Monica.
Wednesday morning, made my way to the Loews hotel lobby, the bustling epicenter of AFM. Started to get the lay of the land – which spans much of the main, oceanside strip of Santa Monica. The sea of people was busy, constant, flowing.
Discovered happy hour at Casa Martin, a block down from Loews, where I met a new friend. We tooled around Santa Monica, then took a dip in his saltwater pool and hot tub. He didn’t mind letting me crash on his couch for a couple nights. He was a complete gentleman.
Thursday, walked back down to Loews for Round Two. Took a detour, wandering down to the beach to get my feet wet in the cool Pacific. Connected with Jacqueline, from Portland, a four-time AFM attendee. Also met James Bradley, whose fateful tweet was the impetus for my being there. Spent the entire day schmoozing, trading business cards, making new friends, even bumping into one or two old ones. By the end of the night, we’d infiltrated the Lionsgate/AFM afterparty at the Viceroy. Fun overload! Jacqueline and I were both hurting the next morning.
Friday, after a painful hangover, headed to Highland Park, where I’d spend the next two nights, to be close to my daughter’s event Saturday, in Burbank. Don’t worry – we’ll discuss that later.
Took myself to breakfast Saturday, where I met Jessica and her 4-year-old son, Jacques. He’s a bundle of energy, with long dark hair. He wore a black hat with two sinister eyes on it and a black leather jacket. He wants to be an actor. Jessica is an A-list celebrity masseuse. She was super excited about the current Alchemy exhibit at the Getty, suggesting I should go there. She said, she planned to go the following day.
“Maybe I could go with you!”
And so it was done. Sunday at noon, Jessica and Jacques picked me up in a shiny new red mini cooper and we spent the afternoon at Getty Museum. In the evening, after another stop at Casa Martin, we hung out for a while in the Loews lobby. It was always great for people-watching. Fashion statements galore. James called me a misogynist bitch for saying so, but I was getting a kick out of the outfits, regardless of what gender the people were. Not making fun, appreciating.
By Sunday, I was tired. Connected with one man from the LA film scene, who I’d met during the whirlwind Thursday. He greeted me with a mild guilt-trip about not leaving with him from the Lionsgate party. Reminded him how wasted I’d been. Would not have been good for anything that night.
He brought me to an AFM afterparty at a bowling alley. Didn’t have energy to work the crowd over the blaring music and background noise, so we sat at a table, making smalltalk. Around this time, I noticed his wedding band.
“So tell me about your family.”
He said he had a wife, no kids. Then he asked me to tell him a secret. Tried to come up with the right story, but he was already dozing off.
“Let’s go.” I said, “It’s past your bedtime.”
“I’m sorry! I’ll wake up, promise.”
“No, we’re leaving. I need to get my backpack out of your car, please. Now.”
On the way, he stopped walking. “I thought we were going to hang out.”
“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last three hours?”
He clarified, saying he wanted me to go back to his room.
“You are married. Do you have an open marriage?”
“I thought you wanted to do business.”
“Yeah, but I’m not going to have sex with someone in order to make it happen. Where is the car?”
He didn’t try anything shiesty, except pretending it was all a joke. Said goodbye, made my way back to Highland Park. It was a long ride, but when a scruffy old man started playing guitar on the bus, it cheered me up a bunch.
Here are a few takeaways from AFM (most of which apply to life in general):
- Don’t have bad breath. Or dirty hands!
- Do have a pocket full of business cards.
- Don’t be an actor.
- Do have a story to tell.
- Have a firm shake, not bone-crushing.
- Be resilient. The air is thick with soul-sucking judgement.
- Be a Yes person. That’s how magic happens, but also…
- Be assertive; learn to say NO.
- Have fun, don’t let it get to you.