This 35th edition of the American Film Market that ended November 12 registered a record number of exhibitors and a record number of first-time participants. Commenting on the large number of new companies, an AFM veteran said that the movie business “is becoming a business for people who made money in other fields and like to be in show business.” The eight-day market organized by the Independent Film & Television Alliance and headquartered at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, California, also registered record high temperatures; summer weather that is rarely seen during November, even in Hollywood, with clear skies (rare even for July and August) and temperatures reaching 32 degrees Celsius.
The event attracted 396 exhibiting companies, the highest level of participation since 2008, amounting to 2,825 executives from exhibiting companies, a one percent increase over last year. Of those 396 companies from over 40 countries, 112 participated in the market for the first time. The largest number of exhibitors came from the U.S., U.K., France and Japan.
As for the never-before-seen large number of unknown film companies, another comment overheard was that it looks like a wave of new film companies have come out of the woodwork, materializing from nowhere, though some of them have a good number of movies to sell.
However, whether business was done is hard to say. What became clear was that exhibitors cut their advertising budgets; therefore, the market dailies were rather “light,” indicating poor anticipated sales or fewer new products available.
This time around, buyers numbered 1,670 and buying companies numbered 794 from over 70 countries. Of those buying companies, 90 were new attendees. The number of buyers from Latin America was up 34 percent, and the number from Asia was up eight percent over last year. Overall industry attendees — non-buyers and sellers such as attorneys, bankers, festivals, film commissions, filmmakers, financiers, post-production facilities, producers, studio facilities and writers — totaled 2,624, up one percent over last year.
To open this year’s market, Jonathan Wolf, AFM managing director, held a conversation titled “How to Work the AFM,” designed to help participants make the most of their time in Santa Monica. Other Roundtables and Conversations, held in the AFM Studio on the lobby level of the Loews, included “Hong Kong: Asia’s Co-production Centre and Gateway to China,” “The Passion of the Film: Reaching the Faith Community,” “Conversation with Adam Carolla: Road Hard — a Comedian’s Journey From Crowdfunding to Distribution,” “African Co-Productions: The Possibilities and the Challenges” and “Distributing and Monetizing Documentaries.”
The second day of the AFM marked the fifth consecutive Hong Kong Day, which represents a partnership between AFM and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and is meant to highlight the benefits of co-producing in Hong Kong. In addition to an opening ceremony, Hong Kong Day featured a seminar titled “Hong Kong: Your Ideal Platform to the Co-Production Market in China.” The seminar was followed by an invitation-only Hong Kong reception, and the special day also featured screenings of four movies by Hong Kong companies.
There was even a Happy Hour on Thursday hosted by the Montana Film Office, where AFM attendees were invited to meet Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs and home-grown Montana filmmakers.
This year, 432 films were screened, of which 352 were market premieres and 85 were world premieres. In addition, over 100 speakers from around the world participated in the AFM Conference Series, Producers Forum, Roundtables and Industry Conversations.
The AFM Conference Series was held in the Starlight Ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel from Friday, November 7 through Tuesday, November 11, with conferences beginning as early as 9:15 a.m. The two-part Finance Conference kicked off the series. The first session, titled “Current Issues in Film Finance,” featured CEOs, filmmakers, financiers and executives who discussed the state of independent film financing, upcoming trends and what they believe is in store for the future. The second session, “Building Your Global Film Financing Strategy,” put a spotlight on everything attendees need to know about global financing structures and sources of film financing, including incentives, subsidies and tax shelters.
The Pitch Conference, sponsored by Roskino and held on Saturday, November 8, was also comprised of two sessions: “Pitching Essentials” and “The 2-Minute Pitches.” The first session taught participants the most important elements of pitching, and the second session gave volunteers (selected in advance) the opportunity to pitch to a panel of Hollywood decision makers and receive feedback.
Session one of the Production Conference, held on Sunday, November 9 and titled, “Producing For a Worldwide Audience,” saw panelists explain what a producer needs to do to ensure that his film has global appeal. The second session, “Accessing and Securing Talent,” offered insight into how to find the right talent to star in your film.
On Monday, November 10, there was the Marketing Conference, with the first session covering “The Engagement Factor – Creating Effective Social Media Campaigns,” and the second about “The Role of the Publicist and Why You Need One.”
The Distribution Conference on Tuesday, November 11 explored “Video on Demand: 2015” in the first session and “DIY Distribution: Finding Your Film’s Audience and Digital Niche” in the second.
In addition, AFM once again hosted the AFM Producers Forum, which was free to registered experienced producers, though space was limited to 400 participants. Those who participated in the AFM Producers Forum had access to 16 educational sessions from November 8-11, as well as invitations to the Producers Forum receptions.
Plus, Mike Tyson lent his star power, appearing poolside at the Loews to promote his upcoming project Champs, which was represented at AFM by The Works.