As the 26th annual AFM convened November 2-9 in Santa Monica, California, it unexpectedly found itself facing increased competition. When the venerable market decided a few years back to move from its longstanding February timeslot to November, the idea was to make MIFED superfluous in order to shrink the number of important markets down to two.
It hasn't quite worked out that way.
The move opened a window of opportunity for the Berlin Festival, Toronto and even MIPCOM. Even though Toronto didn't start out as a market per se, producers and buyers are using it to wheel and deal. In particular, of the estimated 800-plus buyers, a surprising number of them were from Latin America and Australia, and more distributors than normal attended from Japan and Europe.
Kirk D'Amico, CEO of Myriad Pictures, noted, "Toronto has never been this focused before--we were averaging seven to eight meetings a day. It's not exactly the AFM, but it's a market."
Traditionally, only producers who were part of Toronto's festival selection attended. But now, if there's a picture ready to be sold, more producers and distribution companies attend, if only to spread the word about their product. That is a reflection of the resurgent film business--with ever expanding cable and satellite platforms available globally and increasing number of channels, there are simply more buyers looking for product year-round, which means that at the moment, there is enough business to support multiple markets.
In addition, the short 12-day separation from MIPCOM to AFM caused some grumbling from both sellers and buyers of film and DVD content in Cannes and Santa Monica (see MIP-COM story on pg. 12).
Another aspect--perhaps overlooked by AFM organizers--is that by November, many companies have already spent the lion's share of their yearly acquisition budgets, so some producers prefer to hit earlier markets when buyers may be more financially flush.
However, budgets aside, AFM--which is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), a trade association representing producers and distributors of independent motion pictures and television programs--remains the world's largest film trade market, with a reported $500 million in feature film and television production and distribution deals closed last year. IFTA recorded a banner year for this AFM, with more than 7,000 participants from over 70 countries in attendance. A record 529 films representing 35 languages screened over...