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The American Film Market is one of the largest gatherings of buyers and sellers
by Erik Sean McGiven on Nov 14, 2009
The American Film Market is one of the largest gatherings of
film buyers and seller. This year, some
7000 attendees shopped 2,000 - 3,000 films at AFM-2009. About five hundred of these were screened in
venues including theatres and screening rooms set up in hotels. Production companies, distributors, and sales
agents remain the primary participants.
But there were also a good number of filmmakers and producers peddling
their projects. As such, this year’s market
was a very competitive place and promoting a completed film or even a pending
project took many forms.
When you enter the Loews Hotel grounds and lobby, you will
encounter a number of promotional devices.
The first wave was people handing out slick colored postcards promoting
invites to screenings. There were also
busty young girls in tight T-shirts, which exhibited the title of the
film. One guy had a satchel holding a
backlit one-sheet of his film. And for
the taking, scattered on tables around the lobby were postcards and
For many, film industry publications remain the primary
means of promoting their films. Larger
exhibitors take out large ads in the trades announcing their screening schedule
along with contact information at AFM. Obtaining a write up in one of the numerous
articles about the market, even if it's a one-line mention, can prop up the
awareness level. These industry
publications were available in the lobby and more were available for pass
holders on the second floor.
Yet the most effective means still remains the face-to-face
pitch and negotiations. And that's
where networking at screenings, the hotel lobby or various restaurants remains
the hallmark of this market. The
opportunities are there. It helps to
have some small reminder to give out at these encounters be it a business card
with applicable info on the back or a small postcard. Most attendees meet numerous people everyday
and remembering each and every person is a formable task. So it helps to put a handle on you and your
Another facet of this market was the sponsored parties
thrown at various venues almost every night.
These parties were a way to promote their product catalog and also
solidify relationships with buyers and sellers.
Most of these affairs were by invitation only and extended to those who
may be helpful to the sponsor's objectives.
At most of these parties, flat screen TV's projected short clips of the
product line. Other parties had posters
and one-sheets prominently displayed.
With exhibitors numbering little over 350 this year, down
about 10% from last year, the market is still facing the same slumping economy
of other industries. But in a way, these
tenuous times have made the market more efficient. Money is being spent more carefully and
buyers have narrowed their requirements.
Now buyers want completed films with a solid cast attached along with
strong commercial themes.
This caution is now more prevalent across the industry as
majors, mini-majors, and small distributors search more closely for a sure fire
hit. Audience reactions at festivals
appear to open doors and get a valid appraisal of the film's worth. Likewise a buzz that builds about the film
and its cast before it's released is another indicator. But how do you know
what's going to sell?
Take for instance, IM Global's micro-budget horror-thriller
"Paranormal Activity." It
created a mild stir when screened last year for foreign buyers with 300
teenagers in attendance. When finally
released this fall, it's become a runaway hit.
Who knew? With a budget of
$11,000, a no name cast it now has a domestic boxoffice well over 70
million. One has to wonder if the
buyer's restrictive paradigm still applies.
Tales like this are what makes AFM one of the most exciting markets on
the festival circuit.
* * *
April 3, 2020