Gene Mirand
Nov 16 · 7 min read
Photo Courtesy of American Film Market

Every year, thousands of filmmakers, production company executives, distribution companies, and international trade organizations come together to do business in Santa Monica, California at the American Film Market — a ten-day event full of conferences, networking events, cocktail parties, and business deals. It is estimated that every year, over $1,000,000,000 (yes, that is 1 BILLION) of deals are closed at the American Film Market, making it a very lucrative opportunity for a producer or filmmaker looking to sell their project.

Matthew Manyak (right) and Thomas Curry (left) at the 2019 American Film Market

This year, the American Film Market celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Florida-based production company Alignment Entertainment was right at the center of the action. Two of the company’s co-founders, award-winning director/producer Matthew Manyak, and Florida filmmaking celebrity Thomas Curry flew out to sunny Santa Monica to represent their company and their slate of productions, including their vampire series Deathless, as well as the original LGBTQ musical Somebody to Love, and After the Fall, the highly-anticipated sequel to the acclaimed 2017 short film of the same name.

Manyak and Curry departed for Santa Monica on Tuesday, November 5. After spending a couple days seeing the sights around the City of Angels and putting the finishing touches on their pitch packages, the dynamic duo took the American Film Market, and according to the two of them, “started making plays.”

I had the chance to interview Manyak and Curry on their experiences at the American Film Market, and get some insight to the inner workings of this massive filmmaking event.

My first question for the producers was in regards to why they chose to attend the American Film Market. Manyak quickly answered, “We were looking for a place to take Deathless and our other projects to to give them the best chance of reaching the success that we want them to have. For us, the American Film Market was that place.” Curry then turned to me and added, “We were going to look for distribution for Deathless, and to look for partnerships and collaborations with other companies for future projects.”

During the first few days of the Market, the pair recounted how they went door-to-door across the hundreds of temporary office suites around the Loews Santa Monica Hotel inquiring with the different companies to see what they were there for and what they were looking to achieve. “We found a lot of companies that were just sales companies.” Curry stated, “There actually weren’t too many that were actively looking for projects to pick up.” Manyak then turned and added, “We were a bit surprised at first, but after sending out a bunch of emails before and during the Market, we started getting some really productive meetings set up.”

When asked about how these closed-door meetings went with their distribution prospects, Manyak replied, “We can’t say much right now since the negotiations are still in the works, but overall I’d say things are looking very positive. We’ve got a lot of interest in our projects, more than anticipated,” he then added, “The future looks good.”

Thomas Curry and Matthew Manyak at the 2019 American Film Market

When Manyak and Curry were not scoping out distributors, they were networking. “It’s a relationship business,” Curry says. “We met some really great people there, and we’re now talking partnerships with productions not solely limited to the US. If we want to be successful, we know we need to embrace the collaborative spirit of the industry, so that’s what we’re doing.”

What is also surprising is that Manyak and Curry were not the only producers from the home- grown Florida film community to be in attendance at the Market. Manyak jumped in to share a surprise encounter he had with fellow Jacksonville filmmaker Tim Driscoll. “It was really great running into another Jacksonville filmmaker out there. It wasn’t something I was expecting, given how small the local scene is in the grand scheme of things.” He then went on to add, “It’s also funny because before AFM, Tim and I knew of each other, but we had never met. It’s funny how the film world works sometimes.”

Taking a few steps higher on the ladder of fame, there was quite a surprising turnout of celebrities that were featured, or even made appearances at, the event. Films featuring Nicolas Cage, Sam Worthington, John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and others were being shopped around at the Market as well. During one networking excursion, Curry recounts how he actually bumped in to the Billboard-featured singer/ songwriter, and now actress, Joy Villa.

Thomas Curry with singer/songwriter Joy Villa

“It was crazy. I had to do a double-take.” Curry says with a laugh, “I was like, ‘Hey, is that Joy Villa?’ And sure enough, it was.”

Other celebrity attendees that Curry and Manyak also saw attending were Stage 32 founder and CEO Richard Botto as well as Alex Ferrari, who is best known for owning and operating the Indie Film Hustle podcast. Manyak, who attended a handful of the numerous seminars and conferences that took place at the Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica Hotel, said “the conferences that the American Film Market puts on are really beneficial. There’s a lot of great information there and that in and of itself was worth the price of admission to me.” Manyak then added, “The knowledge was great, and so was the free coffee.”

Alex Ferrari (far left) moderates the Boosting Your Micro-budget Conference at AFM 2019

When the days of business meetings were done, and the sun went down, Curry and Manyak shared that they would take to the Santa Monica Pier for the Market’s exclusive “Carousel Cocktails” events, in which the carousel at the Santa Monica Pier would be converted to a series of bars featuring open bars and snack tables, which also included a red carpet photo opportunity for the filmmakers in attendance - which Curry evidently made a great use of.

Thomas Curry, Matthew Manyak, and other filmmakers at AFM 2019

Aside from attending Market, the pair had several meetings and events set up with old friends from the Florida film scene. The Alignment team met up with award-winning filmmakers and talent the likes of Bronza Fox, Brianna Seaberg, Guy Fisher, and Susanna Matza. “It was really great getting to reconnect with old friends and seeing how they are doing amazing things out here. These are the ones to keep an eye on. They’re some of the hardest workers I’ve met and they are doing some really awesome things out west.” Smiling, Manyak added, “And I get to be one of the ones that can say I knew them before they got big.”

Matthew Manyak and Thomas Curry at the Hollywood Sign Lookout in Los Angeles, CA

Manyak and Curry concluded their trip on November 13, bound for home. When asked how they felt about the success of the trip, Manyak replied, “It wasn’t the success we thought we were looking for when we flew out, but we’re now on track to grow very rapidly in 2020 and it definitely looks like there will be a lot of truly amazing things that will happen because of this trip.”

Though AFM may now be over, the marathon only seems to be just starting for Manyak, Curry, and the rest of the Alignment Entertainment team. Manyak’s latest project, After the Fall, which stars Alyssa Moody and Josh Andrews, is set to begin production this coming Sunday. In regards to the project, Manyak tells us that, “the film would not be moving forward without the amazing team I have working on it. My AD, Alexa Wint, was holding down the fort while I was out. She and the other execs have been working hard to make the film possible, and they give me every reason to believe that it’s going to be a very successful project.”

Curry will be returning to his home in Portland to begin work on some untitled short films penned by Deathless writer Vic Carnage. These shorts are rumored to begin production sometime in 2020.

To stay up to date on the latest and greatest with Alignment Entertainment and its productions, check out their official Facebook and Instagram as well! Be sure to stay tuned for what’s new and exciting about their upcoming release, Deathless!

Gene Mirand

Written by

Multifaceted Entertainment Journalist

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