Navigating the American Film Market can feel like a rumble. Every November, Santa Monica’s Loews hotel becomes the turf where film world’s Greasers and Socs battle to sell, finance and acquire films for the global market—a market as unpredictable and dangerous as a zipgun made in third-period shop class. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you’re a first-time filmmaker, having a Dallas Winston on your side at the Market can mean the difference between “staying gold” and being skinned alive. Fortunately for the filmmakers of Juveniles, one of the most buzzed about films at this year’s AFM, they’ve got producer Chris Miller on board.
And AFM 2015 ain’t his first rumble…
Chris Miller is currently producer and co-founder of DisruptiveLA, a production, marketing and distribution company founded in 2014 with James Burke. He executive-produced the terrific 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated and is former head of production for National Geographic Films Worldwide, with over 20 years of experience packaging productions for sale at both the Cannes and American Film Markets. I caught up with Chris at this year’s AFM, where he shared his thoughts on AFM and his new feature, Juveniles, which this week has become one of the market’s hottest word of mouth titles.
Brian O’Hare, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): The American Film Market is a busy time for producers. Why is it so important?
Chris Miller (CM): Absolutely. I think it becomes more important every year. For producers it’s the one time in our country where the world convenes, not just to buy and sell films, but also to exchange ideas about our industry, where it’s going, and what people’s different perspectives are.
MM: The future of feature films must be a hot topic.
CM: Everyone is certainly paying attention to how content is being consumed. I think film still presents the best opportunity for great storytelling. Feature films still resonate in a very different way for people. Every year film finds a way to surprise us; people still want to “see a great movie.”
MM: What advice might you give younger producers on how best to use AFM as a resource for their productions?
CM: The one thing I would say, having been on the buying side myself, is put yourself in the shoes of the company to whom you are pitching. Respect the fact that they know their own audience. Listen to what they have to say. It will inform your process as a commercial producer moving forward. More importantly, realize that these are relationships that will last your whole career. They are as important as any others you may develop. If you are trying to pre-sell a film to help finance a production, make sure you have done all the heavy lifting you can. There is nothing worse than finding a buyer for your film, and then having that film not go, because the rest of your financing is not ready, or your cast is not as committed as you thought. That has a giant ripple effect for the people who buy from you and their business, and ultimately your long-term reputation.
MM: You have a film being introduced to the market this year. What can you tell us about Juveniles? The word is it’s a mix of Fight Club meets The Outsiders.
CM: Ha, well, those are obviously some of our greatest films. The industry has been following this film all year. For whatever reason it seems to have caught on. My guess is, the originality of the screenplay struck people. Showing some footage of the film here started to generate the buzz that we may have delivered. I worked with a terrific director, Nico Sabenorio, who brings a great new voice to cinema.
The Outsiders reference comes from the young ensemble cast, as well as the characters they play: true outsiders within the story, and within a hidden world within our society. I think the cast represents what could be the four or five stars that we are going to see for the next 20 years.
MM: Your lead actor is Beau Knapp, who just finished shooting Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Yet you have established actors such as Stephen Moyer and Kathleen Rose Perkins. Was there a difference in the casting process with them?
CM: We’re very fortunate to work with Beau. For a young actor to have his ability, and also the maturity as a professional to bring a level of collaboration to the process, is just rare. I can’t wait for audiences to see him.
Steve and Kathleen were a natural fit for the story, and for our younger cast members it was a great experience to see what Steve and Kathleen did day to day. How they went about their process, how willing they were to serve the story and their characters. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do to achieve that. They held nothing back.
MM: What’s the future for the film?
CM: We’re just about done, and look forward to a world premiere in front of a real audience. MM
The American Film Market took place in Santa Monica, California from November 4-11, 2015.