by Erik Sean McGiven on Nov 29, 2011
With a fragile DVD business declining, more buyers and
investors at this year's market are seeking films that can open
theatrically. Thus there is a move to
finance mid-budget films with established stars and commercial stories, ones
that can fill the void left by fewer studio projects. A successful theatrical opening assures down
the road sales such VOD and television rights as well as home entertainment
sales. It also projects a profitable
return on investment. In addition, the buzz generated by theatrical runs help
promote Internet streaming offers, now an ever increasing source of revenue.
AFM is a marketplace where production and distribution deals
are made. The eight-day event is held at
the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and the Le Merigot Beach Hotel located next
door. Films are screened at movie
theatres and hotels in the Santa Monica area and attendance is restricted to
AFM pass holders. Conferences are also
part of the market and this year's conferences included ones on finance,
production, marketing, distribution, and pitching. The finance conference was sold out prior to
the market's start. These conferences
drew a good number of non-buyers/sellers and this category jumped 21% this
A great deal of the meetings take place in the hotel lobbies
as well as at nearby restaurants.
Having a well-planned pitch along with supporting materials is a must
during these encounters. This year I saw
a number of people promoting their wares on small laptops. A two-minute trailer can be a persuasive tool
in pitching a project and it can lead to a sit-down meeting.
Sponsored parties are held every night and these too allow
attendees to mingle and promote their wares and talents. These parties also create awareness about the
sponsor's products and services. It's a
two-way street with mutually beneficial results. Most of these parties are by invitation and
being in the good graces of the companies sponsoring them can lead to
AFM's own figures reveal that about 75% of all movies
released in U.S.
theaters last year were independently financed.
This is up from less than half of all such movies 6 years ago. Financing for these films comes from a
variety of sources ranging from minute crowd funding to big-budget hedge fund
backing. Incentives and discounts are
also factored into these deals. For most
filmmakers at the market, the primary objective is to obtain presale funding in
exchange for international rights. With
international territories now accounting for 60% of the total boxoffice it pays
to cultivate relationships with sales agents.
This entails engaging agents long before the market opens and creating a
buzz for your particular film. An
online presence plus a huge social network following will help get you in the
door and becomes instrumental in negotiating a better deal.
Another factor in obtaining a lucrative distribution deal is
the film's potential to earn award nominations as well as critical praise. Actors, writers, and directors who have been
nominated before add traction to the film's marketing appeal. Nominations can influence how distributors
promote their acquisitions and the amount of money they are willing to spend on
prints and ads. Thus films with proven
award winning talent have added value a facet that should definitely be
exploited at film markets.
415 completed films were shown at AFM this year with some
8,000 film professional attending. The
main objective for many was and still remains is to obtain a production and
exhibition agreements. Deals are
sometimes struck months after being presented.
Some projects may be only an idea with an attached star or
director. Most projects come in with
much more. These might include
screenplay copies or treatments.
Brochures, posters, and trailers are also used to drum up interest. A completed film remains the best pick up
vehicle. With international buys,
bigger-budget films with recognizable stars hold the most interest. Genre films, high-concept stories, and to
some extent exotic locations can also generate consideration.
While the struggling economy has reduced investor interest,
new markets have made financing a little easier. Japan has come on stronger, Russian foreign
prices are now more attractive to sellers, and the Chinese and Brazilian market
have become more significant. These
changes will likely prompt producers to package their products and take
advantage these emerging markets.
Likewise, co-production arrangements become more attractive and assure
collecting boxoffice receipts from these territories.
How productive is the American Film Market. This year there were 718 buying companies,
up 8% from last year. During the 8-day
event, it's projected that in excess of 800 million dollars in deals will be
finalize on completed films along with projects in various stages of
development and production. Being one of
the pick-ups is cause to celebrate and a beautiful addition to one's industry
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