Filmmaker Patty Jenkins calls her 15-minute meeting during last year’s AFI Fest Kodak Connect program a life-altering experience. She netted a manager, a screenplay option and a feature directing deal — and now she’s about to make her first feature, “Monster,” starring Charlize Theron.
“It’s bizarre how effective that one meeting was,” says Jenkins. “You could have the best short in the world, but it’s all about what you want to do next.”
Of course, not everyone who participates in the Kodak Connect program ends up with a feature directing deal in just one year. But the networking program launched at last year’s fest has already proved its worth with AFI festival filmmakers looking to make headway with film biz insiders.
Again this year, dozens of Hollywood producers, distributors, agents and publicists will convene on the patio of Les Deux Cafes from Tuesday-Nov. 15 for a series of quarter-hour meetings that give filmmakers the chance to ask questions, network and introduce their projects.
“We encourage them to think of themselves as filmmakers with careers in the long term,” says fest director Christian Gaines.
The Kodak-sponsored event includes breakfasts, lunches and happy hours hosted by orgs such as the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild as well as producer-financier Echo Lake. Industry participants include reps from Disney, Focus, Miramax, New Line and Artisan.
When Gaines joined the fest two years ago, he decided a tightly focused event would be more effective than the usual series of filmmaking panels. “If we were going to occupy the time of industry pros in L.A., I thought it would be far more meaningful to occupy their time with filmmakers than with 200 random people,” he says. “Why not make it really useful for the filmmakers?”
With filmmakers coming to the fest from all over the world, there’s a wide variety in experience level and expectations. “We try and work with them to try and find out what it is that they would like to get out of their trip to Los Angeles,” says Gaines.
As for Jenkins, her meeting with manager-producer Brad Wyman was just what her career needed. She used the time to tell him about a project she had, and Wyman set her up with other people who were interested. He became her manager, and when she finished the script, optioned it with another producer and sales company MDP Worldwide.
“It changed the course of my life,” Jenkins says.