The Pitch Conference
A good pitch can get a bad film made while a bad pitch can leave an outstanding project languishing on the shelf. Attendees will learn the essential rules and tools of pitching from the experts. Registered participants with a valid badge can submit a pitch video for the opportunity to take the stage and pitch to our expert panel, who will give unvarnished feedback – explaining what worked, what didn’t – and why.
More details about this year’s 2023 AFM Pitch Conference will be announced in the coming weeks.
Cassian ElwesProducer & Agent, Elevated Film Sales
Cassian Elwes is an expert in producing, arranging financing and finding distribution for independent films. He began his producing career with 1984’s “Oxford Blues” starring Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy and quickly went on to make another 29 films, including “Men At Work,” with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, and “The Chase,” again with Sheen.
In 1994, Elwes joined William Morris and headed William Morris Independent Film for 15 years. He arranged financing for indie hits such as “Slingblade” and “The Apostle,” both of which were nominated for multiple Academy Awards. “Monster’s Ball” was their historic follow up as Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. In the end he had arranged financing and distribution for 283 films during his tenure at William Morris.
Since leaving William Morris 10 years ago, Elwes has either produced or executive produced more than 70 films such as David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, which was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Feature, Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, for which Williams was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, and the hit period drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which featured an all-star cast headed by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.
He also executive produced J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” starring Robert Redford and executive produced and arranged financing for the Academy Award winning hit “Dallas Buyers Club” directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.
Most recently, Elwes produced both the multiple Academy Award nominated “Mudbound”, directed by Dee Rees, which Netflix distributed, and Dee Rees’ latest film, “The Last Thing He Wanted,” starring Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe, which Netflix will distribute. “Dreamland,” starring Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, and Evangeline Lilly, and “Best Sellers,” starring Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza, are in currently in post-production.
Lee JessupScreenwriting Career Consultant & Coach, leejessup.com
Lee Jessup is a career coach for professional and emerging screenwriters, a twice-published, best-selling author, whose consulting services have been utilized by Universal Writers Program, NBC International, and Final Draft’s Big Break contest. Lee’s clients include writers who have major spec, pilot and pitch sales under their belts, writers who have written major studio films, staffed TV writers on shows including DEAD TO ME, MRS. AMERICA, GOOD GIRLS, UNDONE and MANIFEST (just to name a few), TV writing program fellows, writers named to The Hit List, The Blood List, The Young & Hungry List and The Black List, major contest winners, as well as writers just beginning to chart their professional course.
Lee is the author of BREAKING IN: TALES FROM THE SCREENWRITING TRENCHES (Focal Press) and GETTING IT WRITE: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO A SCREENWRITING CAREER (MWP). She has appeared in countless screenwriting conferences and panels domestically, abroad, and online.
Never too far from the industry, Lee resides in Los Angeles with her family.
Michael RyanPartner, GFM
Michael Ryan started his career working in the TV industry for Sir Lew Grade’s UK company, ITC. In 1978 he formed J&M Entertainment with a colleague, a distribution sales agent for independent films. As J&M grew, it developed its business model to also take responsibility for financing new films & providing production finance.
In 1980 Ryan and J&M were founder members of the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA) – later to be renamed Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) – which was formed to provide an annual film market based in Los Angeles. Michael served two terms as Chairman of IFTA (2004-2008) and another three terms from 2015-2021.
In 2000, Ryan partnered with Guy Collins. Between them they have financed, sold and produced over 200 films, including The Wild Geese, The English Patient, The General, Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, The Osterman Weekend, the Highlander series, Planet 51 and more recently, at GFM Films with Fred Hedman, Toei Animations Harlock, Absolutely Anything starring Simon Pegg and Simon West-directed action thriller Stratton starring Dominic Cooper. On July 15, 2022, GFM’s Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, an independently financed and produced animated feature is based on Mel Brooks iconic Blazing Saddles that launched as a project by GFM Films at AFM in 2014, was released across 4,500 U.S. screens by Paramount.