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The American Film Market (AFM) starts tomorrow and runs through to the twelfth of November (November 5-12, 2008). For those who don’t know, the American Film Market is one of the three big film markets, the others being Cannes and MIFED, and the only major film market in the United States.
The AFM calls itself the “Home of the Independent” and it’s true. This is the one main places where independent film deals get put together. However, it’s not the type of independent film that you’re most likely familiar with. These are not the independent films that rule Sundance. You’re not going to find movies starring Parker Posey, Sam Rockwell or whatever indie darling that is currently in vogue. No, the AFM is where you find the other type of “independent” film, the straight to video movie.
The straight to video world is a completely different universe than Hollywood. These are the movies that line the shelves at your local Blockbuster or other video store. This is a world where action, horror and franchises rule the day. Where the biggest stars are Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren and the biggest franchises may be ones you’ve never even heard of.
This is a different world operating on a completely different margin. Movies here are made for a fraction of what your typical Hollywood film budget is. The companies that attend these markets operate under the model of making movies cheap enough with desirable elements (action, nudity, more nudity) so that they can be sold to the international market. Quality is not as important as marketability and genre. Drama and comedy are more dependent on dialogue and cultural influences and thus are harder to sell. But boobs and blood will sell anywhere. That’s why action and horror are king at the AFM.
Some of you may ask, why doesn’t quality matter? It’s because the AFM has no pretense of art. The movies here are nothing more than widgets to be sold. You see, America has a thriving film industry. Most countries do not. Sure, the UK makes a fair amount of movies as does France and Asia, but the majority of the world just do not have the infrastructure nor the economy to support a prolific film industry. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world doesn’t need content to fill their movie theaters or to program their television networks. And that’s precisely the market for these schlock, straight to video (in the US) movies that are made and traded for the American Film Market. Making a quality film with a good story takes too much time and energy. It’s much easier for the companies that rely on AFM to make movies to a formula. Recycle the plot from this movie, change the setting, add some boobs, maybe an alien monster and that’s about all the innovation that you’re going to get here.
So how does the American Film Market work? To oversimplify it, there are sellers and there are buyers. The buyers are people who represent distributors (theatrical, TV or DVD) from the US and other countries. The sellers are either production companies trying to sell their finished product or pre-sell their future product or individual producers trying to the same. The AFM represents a place where all of these buyers and sellers come together with the hopes and intent of commerce taking place.
In a future post, the Moose will talk more about how an independent filmmaker can use the AFM to help find financing for their film. In the meantime, enjoy a sampling of the movies that are made for and sold at the AFM.
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