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AFM is Fertile Ground

10 Nov, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

MTI/Artist View picked up the film Backlash at AFM. (L-R): MTI president Larry Brahms with Backlash talent Kevin Levrone, Lauren Kim, Danielle Burgio, Robert Merrill and producer G. Anthony Joseph.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — This year's American Film Market (AFM) boasted a record number of exhibitors — 410 from 33 different countries — and by the end of the weeklong beachside confab, several independent home entertainment suppliers had inked deals for fresh new content and distribution.

AFM, produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance, is the annual gathering for independent film producers and creators to meet with domestic and international buyers.

“We have been pleasantly surprised at the quantity and quality of product at this year's market,” said Jay Grossman, VP of sales and acquisitions for MTI Home Video.

MTI picked up several films early on at the market that it will release on DVD in the second quarter of 2006, including Americano, a romantic comedy from All Channel Films, starring Dennis Hopper.

MTI's five-year studio partner Artist View Entertainment celebrated its 15th anniversary in business and AFM attendance.

Scott Jones, president of Artist View, said activity this year was slower than in years past due largely to the show's late calendar date and many attendees having just returned from a film trade show in France. Prior to last year, AFM was held in February.

“I think a lot of people have used up their yearly budget,” he said.

MTI and Artist View inked deals on three titles arriving early next year.

  • Apartment 12 is already slated for a Feb. 7 video release and will premiere on the Starz network Dec. 9. The romantic comedy stars Mark Ruffalo and Beth Ulrich.

  • Horror flick Zombie Town is the fourth title MTI has acquired from Edgewood Studios.

  • Actioner Backlash is the third title MTI has picked up from Independent producer G. Anthony Joseph.

  • IDT Entertainment, parent company of Anchor Bay Entertainment, announced it is expanding into Australia with the acquisition of Imagine Entertainment, an Australian-based independent distributor of theatrical video and DVD product. The deal should close formally at the end of the month, according to IDT.

    “This acquisition completes IDT's expansion into virtually all English-speaking territories,” said Morris Berger, CEO of IDT.

    Meanwhile, gay and lesbian supplier Ariztical Entertainment will kick off a new slate of titles and a brand for the company with one of its AFM acquisitions from this year's market.

    Sindrome, a romantic thriller, will mark the first non-gay-themed title for the company.Michael J. Shoel, president of Ariztical, said the supplier was looking for titles that will fit into a new “culturally progressive” label it will launch next year, which will feature films that tackle women's issues, are politically progressive or have spiritual, but not necessarily religious, themes, he said.

    “We're looking for titles that are niche, but have a distinct commercial appeal,” he said.

    AFM has gotten less intense over the years, he said. People understand the business and what Ariztical has to offer.

    Ariztical picked up three titles for its gay and lesbian slate:

  • The Deadbeat Club, from La Luna Entertainment, Movie Mafia Productions and John Maguire, deals with small-town prejudice.

  • Strange Fruit, from Alex Boling, Kyle Schickner and Jon Finck of Fencesitter Films, follows a gay African-American lawyer as he faces racism and homophobia investigating the death of a childhood friend.

  • Hildes Journey, from Media Luna, dives into the story of a man who must deal with his deceased former lover's wealthy and bitter family.

  • Ardustry Entertainment, First Look Entertainment, Screen Gems, Echo Bridge and York Entertainment were also pursuing deals.

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