Fantasia 2019: 7 Things I Learned from Frontières

Photo Credit: Gauthier Aboudaram

What sets the Fantasia International Film Festival apart from other genre fests is the unique co-production market connected to the event called Frontières. It’s a meeting destination for international filmmakers, producers, sales agents, financiers, distributors, and just about anyone involved in the process of getting movies made. In addition to hosting networking opportunities for industry members, it’s also a platform for emerging voices to pitch their ideas, with selected projects put on a pedestal before all the right people.

After participating in numerous Frontières events, I soaked up a ton of valuable information that I’m happy to share with you all.

1. Pitch with Personality

One of my favorite aspects of Frontières is the chance to observe how others pitch their films. I watched several of the selected projects present up on stage before a crowd of eager listeners. The presentations that really stood out are those that felt authentic. When filmmakers allow themselves to be human, they instantly become more interesting and more engaging. A pitch may be slick, professional, and essentially look like a Hollywood production, but it may also feel generic and uninspired. And when we’re talking indie low-budget films, I think the worst thing you can do is be uninteresting. 

2. Everyone Has a Different Definition of Micro-Budget

Speaking of low-budget, I was surprised at the different ways in which industry members defined the term. To some, a micro-budget film could be $1 million; while others would classify it under $250k. I participated in a “Meet the Financiers” session, which was essentially speed dating with groups looking to invest in independent genre films. Every 15 minutes, attendees would switch to different tables, where a financier would introduce themselves and invite questions. Many financiers, particularly those from European outfits, indicated that it was difficult to pick up films under $1 million, as a smaller investment often represented a smaller return. In order to make it worth their time, they need recognizable talent and high production value. While this may sound disheartening to those who are struggling to raise money (it was for me!), I talked to plenty of other investors who indicated that budgets under $250k were ideal for their portfolio. Ultimately, it’s a matter of finding the right fit: a film of the right scale that aligns with a financier’s strategy.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

I tend to struggle with impostor syndrome, often doubting whether I should introduce myself or share my ideas. I still feel uneasy about even calling myself a writer or filmmaker, let alone feeling comfortable reaching out to producers I admire about my own projects. However, the vast majority of people at Frontières are there because they love movies. They are genuinely interested in those who share that passion, regardless of their pedigree. Events like this are reminders that everyone is human and that the only way to find those who share your passion is to have the courage to share yourself.  

4. Watch Out for Werewolves

While at Frontières, I heard a lot of talk about werewolf movies. As a huge fan of this subgenre, I’m excited that we’ll get some new ideas to fill the void, because there is definitely a lack of quality lycanthrope fare out there. The only bad news? Well…I happen to be working on my own werewolf script. Womp, womp. 

5. Don’t Follow Market Trends

You may be tempted to jump on to an emerging trend, but the advice I received from several producers is not to do that. By the time your movie gets made, you may have missed the mark on the hot topic. The market is likely to move faster than you can get your movie made. Instead, focus on the idea that you are most passionate about, regardless of what you see going on around you. If it’s a strong story with a genuine spirit, then that will likely go further than a recycled idea that people will inevitably grow tired of.

6. Take Every Meeting

If there’s anything I’ve learned about the film industry is that the more people you know, the more access you have to resources, potential avenues of funding, and ways of getting your movie out there in front of others. Take every chance you can to get to know people, even if it doesn’t seem like you have much to talk about. It’s a long game. You may not have the right project now, but years later, you might find yourself reconnecting on the perfect creative collaboration. Plus, you’ll make friends! Yay for friends!

7. There are Many Roads to Making a Movie

You’ll receive all sorts of advice when it comes to filmmaking, including this very post. At the end of the day, there is not a single best path to take. There is no playbook to follow. Each filmmaker must take an assessment of what special attributes they possess and lean into those as their unique selling points. Don’t focus on the things you don’t have. Turn your attention to the resources you can tap into and build your own damn playbook. 

For more information on the Frontières market, check out this piece: Fantasia 2018: Why Every Indie Horror Filmmaker Should Know About Frontières.



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