Having grown up in Canada, Amit graduated from Vancouver Film School specialising in Film Production and moved to Europe to pursue a wider film education through practice. Amit joined Universal in the Amsterdam office in 2011 and moved to the London headquarters in 2013. During his time at the studio, he has gone from being an intern in acquisitions to becoming a key dealmaker in the team, closing more than 25 films for international distribution. Amit has been responsible for the acquisition of films including 71’, Cold in July, Cop Car, The Salvation, The Overnight, Escobar and Adult Beginners.
We asked Amit some questions about his experience in acquisitions and what drew him to Inside Pictures.
What attracted you to the Inside Pictures programme?
When I started out in film, my boss had been speaking a great deal about this mystical film executives’ training course he was accepted into where you get to meet with the best and brightest of the film industry and share your experience (of which I had none) with other folks in the business who had endless ambition (of which I thought I had plenty) and lots of ideas (of which I had a few!). As I gained experience and learned more about the world of film production and distribution, Inside Pictures was therefore always top of mind in terms of training opportunities and I was always waiting for the right opportunity to apply knowing I could contribute as much as I would take out of it. For me, the most exciting thing is being in front of the key decision makers in the industry and having a great opportunity to gain the kinds of relationships that last your whole career – which is what alumni always told me they liked most about the course. The fact it was opened up to non-Europeans like me for the first time is what prompted me to apply and I’m thrilled to be involved with this year’s group.
What are you looking forward to as the programme continues?
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what type of projects our group comes up with and which pitches I could see myself wanting to work on in my capacity as an acquisitions person, but also as a fellow classmate of the people doing the pitching. As far as highlights, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of the people in our group who I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing previously, in particular hearing from producers about the challenges they face in today’s marketplace, and how it differs from my experience at a studio. Outside of fellow participants, I really enjoyed hearing from the likes of Tim Bevan and Stephen Woolley about their journeys through the film business and am looking forward to some of the conversations that are planned in LA.
You have been responsible for the acquisition of some brilliant and highly successful titles. What makes a project stand out for you?
I think there are two sides of the acquisitions coin, particularly when you work in an ancillary driven company such as ours. The first side of the coin is buying something you think has inherently commercial aspects that will attract people to flipping it on their TV or picking it up off the shelf – and that’s often where you have to put your personal taste to one side because you are always buying with making money as the first intention, and that was never really the way I watched films growing up. Most of the time that means you need cast, and production value. The other side of the coin is when the script and filmmaking qualities really appeal to you and you want to fight to have the voices of those filmmakers heard. When both of those things apply in some measure, you get films with good cast and filmmakers like Yann Demange, Jim Mickle, and Jon Watts, and you feel like you’re buying films you want to watch yourself. I suppose the goal as an acquisitions person is always to increase the proportion of movies you buy which you actually love.
What would you say are the key skills needed to succeed in acquisitions?
I think all acquisitions people bring different things to the table, but the one thing that we all share (and surprisingly I’ve found this isn’t true in other parts of the business) is a real passion for films and filmmaking. I can’t imagine a day where I’ll get bored by the idea of seeing a film or going to a festival, and if it comes, that’s when I know acquisitions won’t be a job I should be doing. At the end of the day you’re reading 250+ scripts and watching 300+ films a year, so if you don’t get any kind of satisfaction out of being immersed in the enterprise of filmmaking, then I think it’d be impossible to be successful in film distribution. For all the stress, and often superficiality, of the film business, I love knowing that there’s always a common denominator question that is appropriate in any conversation – “what have you seen lately?”. Every acquisitions person I know can talk about movies for obnoxious periods of time.