Film Market Success: The ONE Thing You Must Do To Succeed At A Film Market

By Stephanie Palmer, author of "Good In A Room"  

Let's say you are a screenwriter, filmmaker, or producer. You're attending a film market, film festival, or pitchfest (e.g. American Film Market, Cannes Film Festival, Sundance) to sell your film or find investors for your next project.

The ONE thing you must do (and it's not "write a great script" or "attach a star to your project") is surprisingly easy and can be done in about two minutes.


You're not a writer.

You're an executive at a studio or production company. You hear pitches, you read scripts, you have input into the decisions that get made at your company.

Your company makes projects that are either big-budget star vehicles or have very small budgets with up-and-coming actors in the leading roles.

Therefore, your boss puts you in charge of expanding the development slate to accommodate more micro-budget projects with a specific emphasis on contained thrillers.

(Note: a contained thriller is a thriller that takes place primarily in one location like Buried, 12 Angry Men, or Phone Booth.)

This is how the story goes….


The boss calls you into her office.

Boss: "I'm sending you to AFM. See if you can find a contained thriller that we can produce for under two million or a writer who would be willing to spec one of the thriller pitches we've optioned."

You: "Okay."


You're treated with respect by the organizers. You have your market badge, a chair, and a schedule of the writers with whom you'll be meeting. It looks like over the course of three hours, you've got thirty meetings, each about five minutes long.


The first writer sits down.

You exchange hellos and then he says:

Writer 1: "My story is a big-budget children's fantasy…"

You listen politely and offer some feedback, but you're not really interested because he's not pitching a contained thriller that could be produced for less than two million dollars.

The next writer sits down.

Writer 2: "Let me tell you how I came up with this idea for the greatest romantic comedy in the history of movies…."

And you pay attention, but as soon as you realize that the project isn't a fit for your company, you tune out.

Twenty writers later….

You're a little numb.

The pitches are all blurring together, your chair is wobbly, and what you thought would be a "day off" from work is turning into an arduous experience.

Writer 23 sits down.

Writer 23: "My project is a contained thriller…."

Now, does this writer have your attention?


You bet this writer has your attention.

In fact, if this writer doesn't make any mistakes or raise any red flags, even if you aren't so excited about the story, you're likely to ask for the script. After all, this is the one project that has even a chance to help you do your job and discover the kind of project your company can use.

Success at a film market or pitchfest typically only happens when there is a fit between the genre of your project and the genre of projects the decision-maker is seeking.

When you see which VIPs will be in attendance at the film market, when you request or sign up for meetings, this must be your key consideration.

Here's my quick research process when considering meeting with a potential buyer:

  1. Check out the company website for any information about past projects, upcoming projects, and what is highlighted as this is typically an indication of the kind of projects they are looking for as they have a track record in that genre.
  2. Scan the company social media profiles.
  3. Do a general Google search for the person's name.
  4. Put the company name into the search fields on Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety to find news of executive shifts and project announcements.

Do a few minutes of research and focus on meeting with people who are looking to buy what you're selling.

That is the ONE thing you must do.

About Stephanie Palmer

Stephanie Palmer is the CEO of Good In A Room and author of the best selling book by the same name. She helps creative professionals (especially writers) improve how they present themselves and their ideas so they can grow their businesses and sell their work.

Palmer was the Director of Creative Affairs for MGM where she supervised the acquisition, development, and production of feature films. Some of the films she worked on include Legally Blond, Con Air, and Titanic among others. Stephanie was also named by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the "Top 35 Executives Under 35." Prior to MGM, she worked at Jerry Bruckheimer Films. 

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