Every November, the film world comes together in a swanky hotel off the beach in Santa Monica, where film producers and distributors sell (or pre-sell) their latest movie concepts to buyers from around the world. Cannes might be the best known film market, although it’s far better known for the Film Festival aspect than the film market aspect, but the American Film Market (AFM) is one of the absolute must-attend events in the industry.
The first time I attended AFM was in 1994, a somewhat desperate and very broke young man trying to raise money to make his first film, a documentary about the Los Angeles underground music scene at the time. We had lined up some pretty good bands to play at a showcase at the Hollywood Palladium, including Sublime and Pennywise (we were also trying to make a return of Operation Ivy happen), we were in discussions with the great cinematographer Tom Richmond (who had just shot “Love and a .45” and had also shot “Straight to Hell” and “The Chocolate War”) to shoot the concert with several cameras, and my producing partner had allegedly lined up Replacements bassist Tommy Stintson to be our music supervisor. But we didn’t have the money to make this happen. Hat in hand, we weaseled a meeting with a buyer from England, which allowed us to bypass the need to buy an attendee badge (several hundred dollars I most certainly did not have). While the meeting did not go as well as hoped for (the project never got made), the day I was able to roam the floors of the Loews Santa Monica Hotel was one of the greatest days as a would-be filmmaker I would have before we left that pipe dream behind, one that, like an addict, I have been trying to replicate over the years (2005-2009) I was previously able to cover the Market.
A lot of people who cover things like AFM like to bag on the number of chintzy movies that populate the market every year. And while sellers with titles like “Babes with Blades,” “Fuck You, Immortality!” and “Mailbox 5” are the bread and butter of the Market, it’s also a place where George Clooney was able to line up financing for “The Ides of March” and where Quentin Tarantino got the ball rolling for “The Hateful Eight.” This year, Guy Pearce is selling “Poor Boy,” a drama he’s planning on directing featuring himself along with “Game of Thrones'” Carice Van Houten and Richard Roxburgh from “Moulin Rogue.” Australian director Roger Donaldson (“No Way Out,” “Species”) is trying to line up his new film, “The Guinea Pig Club,” which is set to star Sam Neill and Richard E. Grant. And the makers of the “Ip Man” series will be hoping to raise financing for the fourth go-round with Donnie Yen as the titular martial arts hero. There’s also new films featuring Elizabeth Banks (“Rita Hayworth with a Hand Grenade”), Andy Garcia, Frank Grillo and Carrie-Anne Moss (“Decoy”), Michael Caine, Bill Nighy and Paula Patton (“Four Kids and It”), Laurence Fishburne, Esai Morales and Edward James Olmos (“Imprisoned”), and several films featuring Dolph Lundgren. In all, nearly 12,000 films are being sold by more than 350 companies, including, hopefully, Troma Films, for I only realized recently that, for all the years I’ve known Lloyd Kaufman (including my time as the webmaster of Troma.com), I don’t have a single picture of him and I together.
So while there will be a presence from such diverse worldwide film companies like A24, The Asylum, Celluloid Dreams, Epic Pictures Group, FilmNation, Full Moon Empire, Goldcrest, HanWay Films, Lakeshore, Magnolia, Media Asia, MK2, Nu Image/Millennium, Pathé, Screen Media, TF1 and the Toei Company, there will be a massive shadow over the market, as this is the first big gathering of film buyers and sellers since the Harvey Weinstein story broke a few weeks ago. It appears TWC will have a much smaller presence in 2017 than in previous years, apparently only bringing one new movie with them (the upcoming horror film “Poloroid”).
Look for our first update from the American Film Market on Thursday.