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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

American Film Market

....the latter part of that title should be "For Dummies" but I don't mean Wavers, I mean the Wave-inatrix. Yesterday I was introduced to a strata of the film world that I had never before been exposed to on such a scale. The American Film Market is essentially a marketplace for film makers to find buyers and distribution for their films. It's way not as fun as the Public Market in Seattle - nobody actually throws film cannisters or shouts or haggles loudly. No, to the Wave-inatrix's disappointment, it's all much more hip than that.

In one hotel there were multitudinous teeny tiny screening rooms with stern security/ushers sitting in the hallway sternly reviewing i.d. passes and directing viewers (buyers) to the correct teeny tiny screening room. Once you get in your seat, the producer of the movie we saw made a short speech about the nature of what we were about to see, and why he thought it would make a terrific movie for foreign distribution. In the dim screening room, the Wave-inatrix surveyed the group of about eight stony-faced potential buyers. Nobody clapped, smiled or really, moved and then the movie commenced. Afterward (we saw the first thirty five minutes of the completed movie) again, nobody clapped - apparently one maintains one's poker face in those teeny tiny screening rooms. This is not a popcorn and red vine situation, Wavers. No, it's very serious. The Wave-inatrix of course broke ranks and hugged the producer enthusiastically but then left him to discuss serious business with the stony-faced buyers. And this goes on all day.

The other hotel was where the real party was. A beautiful atrium was filled with huge posters for many of the movies being represented - most you've never heard of but a few you have and you will. AFM-goers were a relatively hip-looking crowd, all swirling around exchanging cards and waiting for their chance to discuss their movie in one of the ad hoc offices that the distributors had set up in the hotel rooms upstairs. There was a floor of "locations" meaning foreign countries with booths set up to persuade you that you can get big tax breaks and other incentives to film in say, Papua, New Guinea. Then there were the distributor rooms. There must have been a hundred.

On the 8th floor were the companies that the Wave-inatrix adores: Focus Features, Regency, Hyde Park and the Weinstein Brothers. And yes - gasp - the Wave-inatrix saw Harvey Weinstein. My partner and co-AFMer Dave was more excited to see Malcolm MacDowell downstairs dressed all in black sipping wine but - Harvey Weinstein!

What does the AFM mean for Rouge Wavers? Well, two things, one tangible, one a bit less so. Tangibly, the Wave-inatrix, Queen of the Networking Realm, did discuss with at least 3 producers, scripts and writers that I work with. Producers are looking for material. Always. Less tangibly, Wavers, it is probably good to know that there are lot more buyers out there than the big five studios. The film business, particularly the foreign market, is far, far larger and influential than you may have realized.

Most Wavers are probably like the Wave-inatrix (well, perhaps someday, dears) and imagine selling a script to a major studio and having major stars win major awards. We picture walking the red carpet and graciously posing for photos before accepting our Academy Award. But Wavers- there's another world out there and it's far more accessible. If you really want to make a living writing movies, check out the independents.

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Christian M. Howell said...

Great info. Had I known about this, I would have foregone the Fade In Conference and went there.

I don't care whose money it is. I want to make movies.

Bill Martell has an interesting post up about AFM, also, slightly more vitriolic though it may be.

Blogs like this are great for me because if you don't learn how to fix things, good coverage is useless.

IM Anonymous said...

Having spent the bulk of my day on the strike line, and despite being realistic enough to acknowledge producers are always looking for material, it's discouraging to learn that there are still writers out there hawking their scripts at events such as this one.

I'm not so naive as to believe all writers are in tune with the strike and support it, but it's still discouraging to be reminded that there are writers who only think of their future in the industry and not the big picture.

Dave said...

IM--Aside from the few "fringe" folks loitering around the motor court of the Loews Hotel, squinting to read names on the badges of passersby, who goes to AFM to "hawk" scripts? Those who do pay exorbitant rates to be there go to hawk their completed (or in-development/pre-production) films, as I'm sure you know.

And even those few who do head to AFM hoping to drum up interest in a spec script, they should expect as much success as if they'd taken out an ad for the script in the trades (i.e. none).

Also, unless AFM-crashing, script-waving writers are in the WGA, which would be extremely unlikely, there's no "anti-strike" aspect to what they're doing, unless they're soliciting the rare producer/exec/company at AFM that actually is a signatory to the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement.