Film Specific interviews Death Grip

Our fellow filmmakers and Death Grip fans have been asking us what goes down at the American Film Market, which we attended last year (2011) with our beloved film. And with our film only in post-production, many wondered (including ourselves) how valuable the trip would be. We were happy to discover that while the price of admission was indeed steep, the learning experiences we gained there more than paid for it.

Now with this year’s AFM approaching, Stacey Parks of Film Specific asked to interview us for her AFM Case Study series. So if you’re still wondering about our experience at last year’s American Film Market, then read below as Death Grip‘s producer and co-star Rebecca Ahn gives detailed insight into how the market proved beneficial for our own little independent action film, and what we learned to improve upon next time.

Today I’m going to introduce you to Rebecca Ahn and Eric Jacobus whom I worked with as private clients on their film Death Grip.  As you’ll see, even though Death Grip wasn’t finished by the time AFM rolled around, Rebecca and Eric decided to make the trip anyway (from San Francisco where they’re based) and see if they could start drumming up interest for their film.

Every year, hundreds of filmmakers show up on the AFM doorsteps with films in the post production stage in hopes of finding distribution interest for their films. But where I see most filmmakers fail is when they show up grossly unprepared – without the proper presentation materials and without any meetings set up… and as a result, most of them go home frustrated.

In this case study, you’ll see how Rebecca and Eric did things a bit differently by going in prepared…yet learned some very valuable lessons of what they could have even done better.

Enter Rebecca and Eric…

What is the name and log line of your film?

Death Grip

An Action Kickback film by Eric Jacobus, which takes Kenny Zemacus and his autistic brother Mark deep into the deadly world of the mysterious Coin of Judas and the murderous cult that will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.

What is the website for your film (if you have one)?

What is the budget (or budget range) of your film? 

In the end, we will have spent just over $100,000 to produce Death Grip.

What stage were you at with your film for AFM and what was your strategy and overall goal going in? 

We were in post-production on Death Grip when we attended AFM last year, so our goal going in was to find either interested distributors or at least a reputable sales agent to take on our film.

What did you do most to prepare for AFM? 

We did our research and identified several distributors and sales agents we thought would be a good fit for us and our film, then reached out and set up several meetings throughout the market. We then worked hard to put together a solid sales one-sheet with great cover art on one side, and cast & other important production info on the other. Since Death Grip was still in post-production, we didn’t have a final screener to take with us. So instead we took DVDs with the trailer and a few rough scenes from the film to show prospective distributors.

What were some of the obstacles you encountered (if any) and how did you overcome them? 

Our biggest obstacles came from the marketability and timing of our film. While the sales agents we met with at AFM seemed satisfied with our content, they continually expressed concern over whether we had adequate name talent. We hadn’t fully understood how singularly essential this one element can be to distributors, pretty much above all others, and this limited our ability to connect with some of the more established sales agents.

In addition to that, we went to AFM while still in the early stages of post-production on Death Grip, which meant we didn’t have a polished looking product and our trailer wasn’t as strong as it could have been. This also hurt us in our AFM meetings, and though some sales agents were able to see past that to the film’s potential, we definitely would have made a stronger impression if we’d brought a completed screener, or at least an extremely solid trailer.

What were some of your biggest mistakes or wastes of time with regards to AFM? 

Going into AFM, we were still a bit fuzzy on the difference between a distributor and a sales agent. We realize now, looking back, that it was not as realistic to pursue deals directly from distributors there (especially not foreign) given the package of our particular film. So I do feel we wasted some of our time in contacting and pursuing distributors who would rarely give a film of our level their precious time. In the end, our conversations with sales agents were far more rewarding than those with direct distributors, so that is an area where we could have used our time more wisely.

What resources or tools did you find most helpful in preparing for and attending AFM? was by far the most valuable resource for our AFM preparation, as well as for producing Death Grip in general. We were also fortunate to work with Stacey Parks on our marketing and distribution strategy. Beyond that, we just researched every site and resource on film markets and distribution we could find, and talked to everyone we knew who had been through it before. So we felt very well prepared going into AFM.

What was the outcome of your trip to AFM and did you accomplish your goals? 

At the end of the market, we left with a good number of positive leads from sales agents, which later developed into several full offers. Our hard work at AFM was rewarded, and we were able to compare and negotiate these offers and select the very best one for us. So in the end, we did indeed accomplish our goal, and now have our ideal sales agent WonderPhil representing Death Grip.

If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?

How you brand yourself is just as important as how you brand your film. Although we had prepared solid materials for our film, we didn’t focus enough on materials about ourselves – namely our business cards. We did have some on us, but they were hard to read and a bit outdated, since we made them for an older company. I sometimes wonder if we would have had more success had we brought more professional business cards with our current production company and roles.

Armed with these, we also might have had more courage to make more frequent introductions. We didn’t quite realize the importance of impromptu introductions until the end of the market, and therefore missed out on a good many additional opportunities. We had our schedule of meetings, but didn’t take as much initiative between them to pop in and introduce ourselves at other companies we hadn’t reached out to yet, but were still a potentially good fit. The few times we did do this, it lead to something more. So we left feeling like we could have done more there.

What are your next steps from here? 

We are proud to say we finally released Death Grip a few weeks ago with our own theatrical premiere, which was extremely well received and has already been earning numerous glowing reviews ( It is also now available on DVD and Blu-Ray at our online store (, where sales have really been taking off!

So next, we will be working on building up more press, trying to get into a film festival or two, and helping our sales agent sell rights to more territories around the world. At the same time, we are also developing our next two projects, which we’ve gotten to the script stage and are now packaging with financing and cast. So it’s onward and upward for us!


What We Learned In Cannes

The journey home from Cannes was long, but it gave me some time to evaluate the whole trip. The most shocking realization was how little we knew about the European film industry simply because we live in the USA. Even attending the American Film Market didn’t prepare us for what Cannes was all about. The focus at AFM was on making a marketable independent film, while Cannes was about how to co-produce with other countries and get in tight with film fund managers, all to take advantage of government subsidies.

via Final Thoughts from An Action Filmmaker In Cannes – European Film Financing.

For our director, Eric Jacobus, to say that the Cannes Marche du Film was a “shocking realization” for us is a huge understatement. Not only did we gain new perspective on the international marketplace and how the rest of the world makes movies (which is almost entirely through co-productions), we also learned how much of a disadvantage we face being in the weird position of American independent filmmakers. Although our type was in abundance (as far as we could see), it was clear we were considered the underdogs, the outcasts, excluded from the in-crowd and forced to mainly only socialize (and collaborate) with ourselves.

But regardless of the discouraging discoveries on international co-production potential, and access to Europe’s extensive public funding, we still walked away with a strong confidence that what we are creating (cost-effective action films with quality story) is incredibly unique, and has an extremely momentous demand that no one else is really attempting to fill.

So now we are back and pumped to get Death Grip finished and out to all of you! We are nearly there, so in the meantime, make sure you get your tickets to our Theatrical Premiere event on June 30th. And enjoy these newly released behind-the-scenes videos:

Painting the “Lair” set, Benny Hill-style.

A stuntman is always a stuntman, even in his sleep.

Live from Cannes

Bonjour everyone!

Ici nous sommes en (Here we are in) Cannes, France at the Marche du Film & Festival, and quelle chance! Death Grip has been getting lots of promising attention from distributors around the world, and we may even come away from this market with a few deals locked down – all thanks to the hard work and savvy of our sales agent, Wonderphil.

We’ve also been getting a really healthy dose of reality check regarding the international marketplace, including what regions really aren’t interested in collaborating on our breed of action films, and what regions are. So we’ll definitely be taking home a stronger vision for the international growth potential of our Action Kickback movement and future films!

Wonder what goes on at a film market like Cannes?

Want to see what it looks like from the inside?

We’ve took some exclusive behind-the-scenes video for you live from inside the sales floor, right in the hub of the Cannes Marche du Film. See through the eyes of our producer Rebecca Ahn, as she walks the main corridor of the Palais des Festivals, passing by the Wonderphil booth where our own beloved Death Grip is on display, and finally joining up with our director Eric Jacobus and production designer Ejay Ongaro, as they ready themselves for another day at the Cannes Marche du Film!

Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air and the buzz of countless sales deals in the making?

Death Grip Goes to Cannes!

Bon Voyage! Death Grip‘s fearless leaders, producers Eric Jacobus and Rebecca Ahn, are setting off for Cannes, France to attend the Marche du Film and Film Festival in pursuit of Death Grip distribution success.

At 5:30am tomorrow morning, Eric and I will bid our Bay Area farewell and take to the skies on our way to Cannes. We are so excited to experience our first Marche du Film, and observe our sales agent Wonderphil in action as he exhibits Death Grip to countless distributors from all around the world! But beyond that, we are looking forward to the incredible learning experiences and networking opportunities that come with such a tremendous event. This is by far the largest film market of the year, with 11,000 film professionals in attendance, and 460 exhibitors representing over 40 countries. So I’ve no doubt we will walk away (or rather fly away) from this experience with a great deal more knowledge and understanding of this business and how we can continue to take our films to the next level. So look out Cannes, and look out world, because here we come!

-Rebecca Ahn

Stay tuned on this website for exclusive updates and videos LIVE from Eric and Rebecca in Cannes.

And don’t forget to get your tickets now for the Death Grip Theatrical Premiere on Saturday, June 30th!

We’ve Got Our Sales Agent!

It’s official! In the first step that brings with it a series of many more, Rise and Fail has secured sales agent representation with Wonderphil Productions!

While we’ve still got a good 600 hours of editing ahead of us to ready the trailer, key art, final film, and bonus features — signing this contract means we are finally letting this film fly the coop in search of new homes in the hands of distributors worldwide.

We’re especially excited that this will be our writer / director Eric Jacobus‘s second feature film sold!

So here’s to a bright future for Rise And Fail on its journey to store shelves, Netflix & VOD, and ultimately your home TV set!

Successful AFM & Newer Trailer!

Our producers recently made the trek down to Santa Monica for the American Film Market (or AFM), where they shopped around an even newer, shinier version of the Rise And Fail trailer. Now that they are back, and in high spirits from their success at the market, we’ve deemed it safe to share this newest, fanciest trailer with you all!