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AFM a Steady Source to Indie Studios

By Billy Gil | Posted: 03 Nov 2008

Independent distributors, directors, producers and other industry professionals will be at the American Film Market (AFM) Nov. 5-12 at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and Le Merigot Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. The festival continues to offer niche, foreign and smaller-budget titles — in other words, the bread and butter of independent distributors.

“It’s consistent,” said Michael Shoel, president of Ariztical Entertainment, which continues its bid for gay-and-lesbian-themed product at the show, and will sell titles for overseas distribution as well. “We always seem to find something that works for us.”

The 29th annual AFM will screen 513 films, nine fewer than last year, and will feature 102 world premieres, a drop of four from last year. Fewer screenings reflect what independent studios said about the show: It has become streamlined over the years. Screenings will take place at the sold-out exhibition space and at nearby theaters.

“I think I’ve seen overall fewer films, but I don’t think it’s drastic,” said Bill Bromiley, chief acquisitions officer for Image Entertainment, which this year is looking for bigger-budget, cast-
driven product. “I think people are getting more careful about the kinds of movies they are putting into production. There are fewer titles available out there, but there are fewer distributors competing with us that are healthy. There’s not a whole lot of competition, which is not a bad thing.”

Films making their premieres this year include Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken in The Maiden Heist (Yari Film Group); The Killing Room, with Timothy Hutton, Chloë Sevigny, Nick Cannon and Peter Stormare (ContentFilm International); and Powder Blue, with Forest Whitaker, Jessica Biel, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Liotta and Patrick Swayze (QED International). A full screening schedule and descriptions are available at www.TheFilmCatalogue.com.

Some acquisitions already have been made through the festival, including Ariztical’s Red is the Color Of, which is due on DVD in first-quarter 2009, and Ornaments due Dec. 2; MTI Video’s Pandemic and Mr. Art Critic, both acquired from Artist View Entertainment, are due on DVD in third-quarter 2009; Questar’s Uncle Nino and The Victor Borge Classic Collection; and Cinema Epoch’s Growing Out and Secrets of a Desperate Housewife.

Additionally, AFI Fest began Oct. 30 and runs through Nov. 9, headquartered at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. AFI Fest is the market partner of AFM, with 30 films from AFI Fest also being represented at AFM.

“One of the nice things over the last couple of years is with the AFI Fest affiliating with AFM, we’re starting to see a lot stronger arthouse films than in the past,” said John Gerrans, co-president of Strand Releasing, which is looking for commercial arthouse and foreign films. “[Previously] they’d want to hold off and premiere at a festival attached to a market. The nice thing is AFM has that situation now.”

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