GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – GREETINGS FROM AFM 2014! Image

Welcome to Going Bionic #240. Before we analyzing the trends emerging from the soon-to-be-winding down American Film Market, I’d like to first thank all Veterans for their service, and wish them a very happy Veterans Day.

The 35th annual American Film Market in Santa Monica has proved to be a fruitful showcase for a myriad of motion pictures. From the multi-national financed, $100 million plus tent-pole showcases, to the lower to middle level budgets with attachments from notable actors, AFM is quickly strengthening its reputation as an international showcase to get notable films financed. Of course, this trend spells doom for the vast ocean of micro-budgeted, non-star driven indie films that have bombarded AFM over the past few decades. But, nothing ever stays the same, so it’s better to adapt now rather than to be left behind in the wake of our ever-changing world of distribution. So, without further ado, here are a few key trends that highlighted this year’s American Film Market.

Mega-Budgets and Star-Driven Films Enjoy Healthy Sales
This year’s AFM boasted healthy sales for several mega-budgets, as well as medium to small-ish budgets, that had the benefit of having stars attached to their picture. While there were many of these films, below are three key ones.

Inversion
This $120 million budgeted Sci-Fi thriller had director Scott Waugh presell the picture to several key territories around the world, by doing storyboard presentations. Territories sold included Asia, Australia and Spain, among others.

The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s newest film also enjoyed strong sales at AFM, after finalizing its cast of Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. However, the biggest news out of Tarantino’s camp this week, was that he plans to retire after making his tenth film. Thus, The Hateful Eight may be the third from the end of Mr. Tarantino’s career as a director.

Jenny’s Wedding
Katherine Heigl stars in this gay-marriage themed dramatic comedy, which was shot in Cleveland over 18-days. While dramatic comedies don’t usually sell well at AFM, or any other major film market for that matter, Jenny’s Wedding might do very well, because of the largely positive buzz around Heigl’s upcoming television series, State of Affairs.

New Independent Distributors Flood AFM With Acquisitions
With all major studios cutting back on the number of films they produce, newly financed independent distributors are emerging, because the studios are no longer producing enough films to match the international demand. Of the newly minted heavyweights, the six-month old Saban Films just picked up the North American rights for The Trust, starring Nicolas Cage. Saban Films also recently bought three films at The Toronto International Film Festival, including John Travolta’s, The Forger as well as The Homesman at the Cannes International Film Festival, which stars Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank.

Should you be wondering what the hell of this information means for your career, here’s my humble answer. If you shook a magic eight ball and asked if you need to have stars attached to your upcoming indie film in order to get noticed, advance your career, or make money for your investors so you could do another film, your eight ball would most-like answer with, “signs point to yes,” “yes,” or “yes, definitely.”

On that note my friends, I thank you once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I wish you a tremendous week. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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  1. Jane says:

    I agree – if you want to see any foreign sales, you will need stars in your micro-budget film. Keep your budget small and produce a great script that can attract strong talent. Or if you want to showcase smaller talent then focus on the domestic market and build a great grassroots marketing campaign and ideally have the story appeal to a niche market so your film can stand out from all the rest and have a shot at recoupment.

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