By Leah Hochbaum

More than 1,500 international television buyers descended upon the City of Angels last week for the 43rd annual Los Angeles Screenings, and while they were there primarily for the studios, most managed to make at least some time for independents — who were more than happy to see them. On the average, and despite the difficulties, indies managed to get 30 meetings each. The number isn’t big, but it’s better than staying home with no one to call because all their clients are in L.A.

“The Screenings are always a challenge for the independents,” said Olga Romero, head of Sales for Latin America for Canada-based Cookie Jar Entertainment. “But part of being an indie is rolling with change and making it work to your advantage.”

And make it work she has. Romero cited a slew of Cookie Jar animated series, including Johnny Test, Gerald McBoing Boing and Arthur as stirring up interest in the Latin American market. “For us, this is more of a Latin market,” said Romero. “The Screenings are a great opportunity for us to catch up with the Latin clients we see at NATPE and continue the conversations we started at that point.”

Katherine Kaufman, vice president, Worldwide Sales for PorchLight Entertainment also dealt with a number of Latin clients, but said she sees the Screenings as more of an international affair. “Buyers from all over were in a buying mood,” she said, before adding that despite their eagerness to acquire, “buyers don’t seem to have the time they’ve had in the past [to meet with the independents].”

At the VideoAge International L.A. Screenings breakfast, execs from a number of independents spoke of a collective epiphany that the indies must come together and establish a general screening of their own in which exhibiting companies would be centralized in a single conference room. Ideas as to how this would come about were varied.

Echoing the thoughts of many indies at the breakfast and beyond, Kaufman acknowledged that buyers “are coming to the Screenings because of the studios, so it’s a double-edged sword. They drive the business, so we’re happy to have them.”

Overall, Kaufman found that, “the market moved along at a healthy pace.” She shored up a number of movie package deals with Artear and Venevision. “And we’re working on some U.S. Hispanic deals, which are very exciting,” she said, though she was unable to provide specifics since negotiations are ongoing. Kaufman felt the Screenings were “less rushed” than in previous years, allowing her to “take more clients out to dinner,” and ultimately, close more deals.

Bob Kennedy, executive vice president, Sales for Alfred Haber Distribution, Inc. concurred, saying “The best aspect of the Screenings was its relaxed atmosphere. Buyers don’t have meetings every 20 minutes, so they can take their time and really move things along.”

Of course, it also helped that Kennedy and his Haber colleagues scheduled over 40 meetings with buyers prior to the Screenings “so we didn’t have to rely on walk-in traffic,” he said.

For Haber, like Cookie Jar, the market is very Latin American-centric. The company just licensed its flagship Court TV series Most Shocking to Televisa and Teleamazonas, and has plans to bring the show into both Panama and Colombia, as well.

“The L.A. Screenings just work for us. I don’t really know what I would change,” said Kennedy, before adding, “except maybe I’d close for weekends so we could all golf.”

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