CANNES or SUNDANCE. FESTIVAL or MARKET (Awards or $300 Million…Pick One)


There are Film Festivals and there are Film Markets.

Festivals & Markets have absolutely nothing in common.

Film Festivals are about “Fluff & Awards”, with an undiscussed hope that you, with your film, will get either (A) Discovered or (B) a Distributor.

Film Markets are blatantly about Business-Business-Business…. Money, Pre-Selling, Financing, Profiting & More Money.

30-35 years ago I don’t think you could name more than 10 Film Festivals in the entire world…. Go ahead try.

FESTIVAL-Sundance (Sundance although only a Film Festival has become a closet Film Market)

Yes, there was Cannes, Sundance had just started, I’m sure there was something in New York, London & Los Angeles… Tokyo, “maybe”. Pusan, “don’t think so”. Oslo, “Nah”.

How about Jerusalem, Singapore, Capetown, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Charleston, Hyderabad, Shanghai, Brisbane, Calgary, Halifax, Santiago, Caracas, ????

Today there are 2,000-3,000 Film Festivals, and some reports have the numbers at 3,000-5,000….they’re everywhere.

Film Markets, which are not Film Festivals, have only 3-5 in the entire world and in a moment I will explain the difference.


FILM FESTIVALS: There are at a minimum 2,000-3,000

FILM FESTIVALS (A-List): There are only 15-20

FILM MARKETS: There are only 3-5

Permit me to explain the difference.

FIRST: The 2,000-3,000 Film Festivals are about “Fluff & Awards”, they’re social events (everyone likes culture) and for the filmmaker they’re much more about hoping-to-be-discovered.

QUESTION: But discovered-by-who?

ANSWER: By Acquisition Executives.

QUESTION: What’s an Acquisition Executive?

ANSWER: Every Distribution Company in America, if not the world, is busy making, marketing & distributing their own films that they finance. And, they also know that there are Independent filmmakers who actually spend their own money (friends, relatives, crowds, etc.) to make movies… They are, as the phrase states, Independent-of-the-Film-Industry. But they now want to lose-their-independence & secure a distributor.

Thus, every distributor has an employee titled “Acquisition Executive” whose job it is to go from film festival to film festival looking for that independent film that for-whatever-reason the audience loves…and basically “BUY IT”.

FESTIVAL-TIFF (Toronto once the leading festival with Cannes & Sundance has lost it’s edge and is trying to regain it with it’s Film Market division)

IMPORTANT POINT: Acquisition Executives are merely people who know that there are 2,000-3,000 Film Festivals every year with only 52 weeks in the year. Thus, as a human being with limited time, how many Film Festivals do you think he/she attends? The answer is maybe, at the most, 15-20. And, it is these 15-20 Film Festivals (Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca, Venice, AFI, etc.) that are called the A-List Festivals… Again, they are the A-List Festivals because Acquisition Executives from Miramax, Summit, Sony Classics, Lionsgate, Bleecker, Roadside, A24, etc. are there.

And, if the Acquisition Executives are there, and your film screens there, you have a chance of achieving what you desire and being either (A) discovered or (B) securing distribution.

Now, how about Film Markets, which this blog post is about.

Let’s assume (A) you got into an A-List Film Festival, (B) your screening Sold Out, (C) you had 12-15 Acquisition Executives at the screening, (D) who noticed it Sold Out and the demographics and (E) upon the film finishing with the Rear Title Crawl Credit the audience stands up screaming “Bravo. Bravo. Bravo”, not politely applauding…

Then, within the next 15 minutes, in the lobby of the theater where your film has just screened, you have 5-7 of the 12-15 Acquisition Executives wanting to buy your film or at least make a deal to distribute your film… you will obtain a distributor and the deal will be made for North American Rights, with possibly all revenue streams, for a set period of time.

What is left, for additional profit, is all Foreign Rights.

Your Independent Film, now with North American Distribution, has just become an American Movie and you own 100% of all Foreign Rights.

And, to cash in on Foreign Rights you will attend, not a Film Festival, a Film Market.

Film Markets (American Film Market, Cannes de Marche, European Film Market, Hong Kong FilMART, etc) are blatantly about Business….The Business of Buying Films after they’ve been made & the Business of Financing Films before they’ve been made.


At the major film markets annually there is over $300,000,000 in annual funding or pre-selling… But, first, what is a Film Market and are you a “Buyer” or a “Seller”?

Film Markets, as the word says is a “market” with, as stated, “buyers” and “sellers” and each of the “Big 3” (Cannes, AFM & EFM) have at least 200-300 SELLERS and 2,000-3,000 BUYERS.

Now, what are you, when you’ve made a feature film and are trying to sell it?

Duh! You are a SELLER.

And, what are you when you have a script and are trying to secure financing?

Duh! You are a PRE-SELLER.

MARKET-EFM (EFM: Rooms & Booths. Buyers & Sellers. “What you got and Who’s in it?”)

And at each market there are at least 50-70 sellers, companies larger than you but not as larger as a Hollywood Studio, which are (1) independent North American distributors (Samuel Goldwyn, ThinkFilm, Strand Releasing, Roadside Attractions, Summit, Participant, etc.) who have maintained foreign rights to a film, plus (2) another 25-30 the cable networks (HBO, Showtime, A&E, SciFi Channel, etc) with movies for sale to foreign nations and (3) a plethora of 100-150 non-American foreign distributors, from Germany, Japan, Korea, England, etc., trying to sell their movies to each other or to America (4) along with 15-20 small, first-timers, like you, who have a feature film and want to sell it to Germany, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Israel, etc. or merely just have an idea, with a script & a poster and are trying to Pre-Sell it.

First, the 3 major Film Markets are:

  1. CANNES de MARCHE (this is not the Cannes Film Festival)…..
  2. AFM: “American Film Market” (Santa Monica, California)…..
  3. EFM: “European Film Market” (Berlin, Germany)….. www.EFM-Berlinale-de

To join any of the 3 Film Markets you just (A) Phone or E-mail, (B) write a check $7K-$25K, (C) get a Booth (Film Markets are just Trade Shows with floor space to rent) or at AFM, which takes place at a hotel, you get a Hotel Room, (D) get a badge that states you’re a SELLER and (E) stand in front of your hotel room with TV set and DVD and Posters of your film and peruse everyone walking by your booth or room and look for a badge, with a different color, that states (1) They’re a BUYER, (2) their name and (3) what Nation they represent.

Then one-by-one (Russia, China, Japan, Korea, etc.) you bring the Foreign Buyer into your Room or Booth, show them a 1-2 minute demo/trailer of your movie along with the Poster which states “who’s in it” and then haggle-haggle-haggle and negotiate a SALE to that DISTRIBUTOR from that NATION.

There are basically 35 Nations or Territories that you can make sales to After Your Film has been made…. That’s FOREIGN SALES

Now, let’s think PRE-SELLING: If a company from Peru or Brazil or Israel or Germany would buy (aka: license) your film for $50K-$80K after it was made…there might be a chance of PRE-SELLING (assuming they trust you) at a discounted price of 40%-50% of the guesstimated price they’d buy it after it was made.

Now just using your Poster, Script and possibly a trailer/teaser, you do 20-25 of these 35 possible nation and territory Pre-Sells, at 40%-50% discount, at prices of $10K-$40K, and then bring these Pre-sell contracts back to America and a bank like Bank of America, or Wells Fargo or Comerica and use them as collateral to get a loan for 9-12 months to make your movie.

You make you movie, deliver it to these 20-25 Pre-Sell nations and are left with profit from the remaining 10-15 nations oyu haven’t Pre-Sold to and back in North America you can get additional profits/revenues from DVD, Cable, TV, Merchandising, etc.

The point of this post is to just let you know that FILM FESTIVALS and FILM MARKETS have nothing in common.

And, if you desire to PRE-SELL, raise money to fund your film from foreign sales at discounted prices, then you go to a FILM MARKET (Cannes, AFM or EFM) and if you have actually financed and made your film and want to make additional money from Foreign Sales you also attend a FILM MARKET, secure a booth, and become a Seller.

Attending means (A) Joining, (B) Renting a Room, (C) Creating Marketing with Posters & Press Kits and sell-sell-sell.

For 5-6 years I, with my “DVD FILM SCHOOL” package, attended “AFM” (American Film Market) where I sell (aka: License the rights) to the “2-DAY FILM SCHOOL” and the “DVD FILM SCHOOL” each year to nations (Japan, Israel, Germany, Australia, etc.) or entrepreneurs who represent territories (South East Asia, West Africa, Middle East, etc.)

Enough on theory I know that you want to know “what does this cost” or “give me the numbers please”.

My pleasure: 3 year ago the cost & revenues for me securing booth at AFM and being “A Seller” for 8 days was:


  1. ROOM: $7,000
  3. BILLBOARDS: $6,000
  4. POSTERS: $1,000
  5. EMPLOYEE PASSES: $1,500
  6. PRESS KITS: $500
  8. FOOD: $400
  9. MISCELLANEOUS: $1,500
  10. TOTAL COST…………………………………… $23,000


  1. 120 DVD Sets at $495 = $60,000
  2. 4 Bookings (Turkey, Israel, Singapore, Chile) @ $15,000 – $25,000 each = $80,000


  1. DVD SALES: $60,000
  2. SEMINAR BOOKINGS: $80,000
  3. TOTAL REVENUES: $140,000
  4. LESS: $23,000 Cost
  5. PROFIT: $117,000

Prettty good. Plus, I had fun.

DovSimensFilmSchool (For 12 years at AFM I was an Observer, for 4 years a Seller and next year I’m booked at Hong Kong FilMART as a Buyer & Seller)

Hope this helps. My next “2 Day Film School”  sessions are September 17-18 or December 9-10, 2016.

Happy Filmmaking,

Dov Simens

PS: As every nation in the world builds more-and-more movie theaters… then foreign sales and pre-sells are growing and growing. This equates to an expansion in Film Markets (remember Film Markets are not Film Festivals) past the Major 3 (see above) to now include…. And for me to stay abreast with what is happening in the movie world, based around the explosion of revenues from China, I will be attending the Hong Kong FilMART on a regular basis.

The 5 newer Film Markets, although not as important as the “Big 3” (see above), are….

(A) HONG KONG FILMART (Where you go to target China)…..

(B) TORONTO FILM MARKET (Same time as Toronto Film Festival)…..

(C) SCREEN SINGAPORE (Market in Singapore for Asia)…..

(D) PUSAN FILM MARKET (Korea, the best storytelling nation in Asia doesn’t want to be left behind)…..

(E) VENTANA SUR MARKET (Argentina created one for the Hispanic world)…..

Happy Filmmaking,



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One comment on “CANNES or SUNDANCE. FESTIVAL or MARKET (Awards or $300 Million…Pick One)”

  1. Margaret

    Haha, Dov, you’re so cool, you even don’t know how much!

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