Friday, November 6, 2009

Surviving AFM

You may have thought I was cynical about distributors and sales agents when I said Wednesday that they have a instinctual propensity to steal. And as I walked up to the hotel, I noticed several people holding big signs, almost like they were on strike. Well, you can see what they were there for. They even had a sign truck with the same black sign driving back and forth in front of the hotel.

It was pretty quiet when I was there, just before lunch and I gathered a stack of industry magazines which would help me find out who might be interested in Travel Day. The lobby of the hotel is sort of a meeting place for everyone, where deals can be made or just reacquaintiing yourself with the same people you might have seen last year.

The way it works is this; the hotel rooms and suites are rented by sellers who can be distributors or sales agents. They are looking for buyers who make their way through probably 300 different rooms and suites, each of them filled with posters and DVD trailers and DVD movies. There are screenings held several blocks away at the 3rd Street Promenade but most buyers settle for the DVDs.

All of this happens over 8 days with the most feverish activity happening in the middle. It's kind of like a big flea market with movies being the only thing sold.But there isn't just buying and selling... there's also considering. That's why I'm here, looking for some of the people I know, and hoping to meet other people... all of them are potential buyers and/or investors in Travel Day.

They just don't know it yet. 

Because while they have product and the buyers need product, they also are interested in new films, ones that are in development or production, or nearly finished. Or maybe need some extra money to finish. This is where the game happens for me, and it's quite a challenge.  In fact most of the contacts I make will be contacted in the weeks following AFM. After all, you don't want someone yakking at you with their upcoming movie when someone is offering to buy your movie or "Bag o' Films.

Besides, in this town, everyone has a movie "in development".

But it's also a chance to meet old friends, amazingly enough.  I meet an old friend and producer Pierre Sarrazin whom I hadn't seen in 20 years as well as the Presales producer I met 2 weeks ago. We had a very good conversation and both joked about AFM and even though we're not working on anything together, the potential is always there. Besides, both of these producers are smart and good and that's a combination you value.

But the truth for the market, at least at this point, is that business is very slow. Part of the problem is that there aren't a lot of good new films to sell and much of their catalogs are films that have been hanging around for years. The feeling is that anyone who has a reasonably good film in 2010 with a name star and a reasonable budget, could get a pretty good price. Who's a name star?

George Clooney. Matt Damon, Will Smith (arguably the biggest commercial movie star in the world), Meryl Streep (one of the few women in this category along with Julia Roberts), and a few others. Now naturally none of these actors will be looking for jobs. In fact they are most likely booked now until they die.

But it's a starting point. Can't get George? Well, how about Guy Pearce or Hugh Jackman or even Brad Pitt (only a star when he does an Ocean's 11 movie). The irony is that the distributors want only the A-list actors but when faced with a decision will accept lower names.

But names like Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts and others are out for now. They've made too many bad movies.

And where does that leave me? Well I have a few names to consider also, and since TD is primarily a woman-driven story, I'm back to trying to get a name. Because as of this week, our Manitoba producer, Dane, is pushing ahead with his end, and getting the paperwork that will indicate what is referred to as "first money". In other words, Dane will be getting a Canadian bank to put in the first amount of investment through tax credits.

What does that do?

It indicates confidence in the project and that means it will become easier to get the other half of the budget from investors in the U.S. Nobody wants to be the first in the pool but once someone is, others are likely to follow.

At least it's supposed to.

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