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AFM Decodes Future of Independent Films

admin   November 2, 2021

Industry leaders took the stage to discuss what it means to be Independent today, the state of the industry and how their companies are working to shape the future of independent film.

Consolidation seems to be the way forward for entertainment industry, if one is to go by what experts spoke at the opening session of AFM ‘The Independent Film Ecosphere – Present and Future’.

While Stephen Galloway, Dean, Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, was the moderator, Liesl Copland, EVP, Content and Platform Strategy, Participant;  Jonathan Kier, Co-President, Upgrade Productions;  Brian O’Shea, CEO, The Exchange; and  Julia Weber, Head of International Sales and Acquisitions, Global Screen – A Telepool Brand were the panelists.

Talking about the biggest change in the past couple years and biggest change they see coming up in the next few years, Liesl Copland said, “I think consolidation, where the studios all have their platforms and know their audience and have ad-supported and have subscription…honestly, we’re post the impact of Amazon, Netflix, and so-forth…Apple TV and everything…but the consolidation I think makes every one of us in this [business] need to specialize, and at the same time as do everything.”

Liesl Copland, while sharing opinion on whether the big streamers would be spending this much on content in five years, said, “Well it depends on their subscriber base! Will HBO Max and will Peacock and will Paramount Plus (be spending this much) I hope so! Will Netflix? No. You know, I think they’ll pay for the big shiny stuff and the tentpoles in their own universe, then I think, just by nature of running a good business, and not to criticize, I think they will and already are spending less on sort of the programmers and the things that we expect to see when we stay in their system.”  

According to Brian O’Shea, “There’s been a complete and utter disruption, where there’s opportunity in it…AVOD is becoming…basically what basic cable was – and through the process of new technology, you’ve liquidated or completely eradicated a big revenue stream for filmmakers, and for distributors and financiers…but in that becomes opportunity. We see growth by being flexible in the types of projects that we get involved with…we are diving head first into development and creation, and I think that is the backstop strategy for us in regards to maintaining relevance. Because as this disruption happens, both historically but also looking forward, the control center becomes closer and closer to the creators, and we want to be closer and closer to them, and complement their business, but with us ourselves becoming creators as well.”

Julia Weber said, “For me, this really feels like now we are in the midst of a digital revolution, and now we can really feel how this is shifting and changing all former setups. And for me, really so massive – I mean we’ve always been talking about that in other industries, if you look at automotive or whatever, but now it’s really happening in our business and that, I think, is a major opportunity. We don’t need to be afraid of it, and we won’t be able to stop it anyhow, so we need to adapt quickly and soon, and figure out our ways in between – and yes, we’ve never been so flexible and open-minded than we are and have to be now.”

Discussing on ‘What is going to happen in a few years to windows – are we going to go back to proper windows, are they going to disappear altogether?’, Liesl Copland said, “I do think that we’ll wake up from COVID and the windows will have forever been changed.”

Julia Weber stated, “Theatrical business in Europe is being highly protected – they’ve really tried to prevent any kind of shortening of these windows, and I think we have to try, at least in a situation like we have right now, to keep it as long as possible in a way to give the theaters a chance. People who would like to go to the movies are desperate to go to the movies – and they do not only go for the tentpoles (they do enjoy James Bond and such of course) but they also love the big scale pictures that you can only enjoy that in the theater. People want to make sure that the time and money that they spend for this evening needs to have a certain value to it.”

According to Stephen Galloway, “I suspect that we’re witnessing the end of the Hollywood era. We’ve all seen in the theatrical business, a business that fifty years ago was 30% international is now 70-75% international, would some say there’s a tipping point? Right now, the creative heart is centered here, but at some point, when you’ve got the technology and the manpower overseas, the art develops too. I can easily imagine a huge shift – again, look at Squid Game! For decades, foreign language film was less than 1% of the US theatrical business – now, Ted Sarandos was telling me, the biggest explosion they’ve seen is Korean language content.”

Throwing light on the globalization of content, Kier said, “The rise of nationalism does affect the culture, and the culture all over the world – what the audience is saying is that they want to see their own stories on screen. They don’t want to see American actors doing accents much, and the market in the US – my mother is obsessed with Turkish soap operas and my brother is watching German series – these are things that were not available two years ago. This all goes back to data – as it turns out, there is an audience there – and a lot of the sort of traditional gatekeepers, which were broadcasters around d the world, who would say to me and Brian and Julia ‘No, we don’t want this film, we don’t want this project,’ they were wrong, it turns out. The audience is there. That’s why I think this is creating a lot of opportunity.”


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AFM 2021 Online

All about AFM 2021 Sessions

admin   November 1, 2021

AFM will feature over 150 speakers and again taking advantage of its online market to showcase voices from around the world that can’t always be present in Santa Monica

The American Film Market (AFM) has announced new speakers and sessions along with its full programming lineup set for AFM 2021 Online, which will run for five days, November 1 to 5.

AFM 2021 Online will commence with the opening session – The Independent Film Ecosphere – Present and Future, featuring Liesl Copland, EVP, Content and Platform Strategy, Participant, Jonathan Kier, Co-President, Upgrade Productions, Brian O’Shea, CEO, The Exchange, Julia Weber, Head of International Sales & Acquisitions, Global Screen – A Telepool Brand, and moderated by Stephen Galloway, Dean of Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. The first Finance Conference of the market, bridging the production insurance gap, will follow with speakers Steve Hays, Founder and Managing Member, 120dB Films, Peter A. Marshall, Managing Principal, Media Insurance, Epic Insurance Brokers, Nick Spicer, Partner, XYZ Films, and moderator Jill Goldsmith, Co-Business Editor, Deadline.

While the AFM doesn’t officially start until Monday, November 1, four buildings on the AFM Campus – the On Demand Theatre, Industry Offices, LocationEXPO, and MyAFM – are now open for pre-market screenings, project previews and scheduling meetings.

AFM will feature over 150 speakers and again taking advantage of its online market to showcase voices from around the world that can’t always be present in Santa Monica. Additional sessions and speakers joining AFM’s two online stages and previously announced conferences, panels, workshops, podcasts and presentations. Some of the highlights are follows.

  • AFM’s Pitch Conference will feature Producer & Agent, Cassian Elwes (MudboundDallas Buyers Club), Elevated Film SalesJeffrey Greenstein, President, Millennium Media, Monica Levinson, Independent Producer, (Borat Subsequent MoviefilmCaptain FantasticBrian BanksWander Darkly), and Lee Jessup, Screenwriting Career Consultant & Coach
  • Black Filmmakers at the Crossroads to Success (presented in partnership with AAFCA) will feature Cassandra Butcher, CMO and Co-Creative Director, BRON Studios, Anikah McLaren, EVP, Narrative Film, Participant, Samantha Racanelli, SVP, Film Development & Production, Endeavor Content, and Gil L. Robertson IV, Co-Founder, African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
  • Changing the Narrative: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Film (presented in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media Studies) with Iram Parveen Bilal, Filmmaker, Madeline Di Nonno, President & CEO, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Christopher Kahunahana, Producer, Writer, Director, and Alysia Reiner, Actor, Creator, Producer.
  • Demystifying the SPLATAM Market (presented in partnership with NALIP) featuring Liliana Espinoza, Projects Director, NALIP, Sonia Gambaro, Vice President of Television, 3Pas Studios, Georgina Gonzalez, Director of Development in the SPLATAM team, Gaumont Television, and Frida Torresblanco, Braven Films. 
  • Global Streaming & the Future of Entertainment in Asia with Rick Ambros, International Media and Entertainment Consultant & Producer, Rohit Jain, Managing Director South Asia & Networks – Emerging Markets Asia, Lionsgate, Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment India, William Pfeiffer, Executive Chairman, Globalgate Entertainment. 
  • How Streamers Approach Independent Content with Adam Koehler, Manager of Acquisitions, IFC Films, Brent Lang, Executive Editor Film & Media, New York Bureau Chief, Variety, Berry Meyerowitz, President, Quiver, Brian Stevenson, CEO and Founder, The Chromata Consulting Group, and Jennifer Vaux, Head of Content Acquisition, Roku.
  • How to Profit with Micro-Budget Features featuring Tim Molloy, Editor-in-Chief, MovieMaker Magazine, Matt Grady, Founder, Factory 25, Matt Miller, President, Vanishing Angle, and Deon Taylor, Founder, Hidden Empire Film Group
  • In the Market for Authentic Transgender Films (presented in partnership with GLAAD) with Alex Schmider, Associate Director of Transgender Representation, GLAAD and Tre’vell Anderson, Journalist.
  • International Film Market: Consumption of Black Culture, Rejection of Black Stories (presented in partnership with the NAACP) featuring Mo Abudu, CEO, EbonyLife Group, Kyle Bowser, SVP Hollywood Bureau, NAACP, Darnell Hunt, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, UCLA, Johnny Jones, Executive Director of Worldwide Marketing Content, Warner Bros. Pictures, Gabriel Lerman, Board Member, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Tirrell Whittley, CEO, Liquid Soul
  • Limited Budget Features with Huge Profit Potential featuring Brian Beckmann, CFO,Arclight Films, Luane Gauer, Head of Acquisitions, Protagonist Pictures, Michael Heimler, Head of Production and Finance, Black Bear Pictures, Jeremy Kay, Americas Editor, Screen Daily, and Kent Sanderson, Acquisitions and Ancillary DistributionBleecker Street 
  • New Perspectives on Horror featuring Darren Lynn Bousman, Director, (Spiral, Death of Me, Saw II/III/IV), Patrick Ewald, CEO, Epic Pictures, Jordan Fields, Vice President of Acquisitions, Shout! Factory, Jasmine Johnson, SVP, Development, Crypt TV, and Annick Mahnert, Manager, Acquisitions, Raven Banner Entertainment
  • Producing Movies for Networks and Platforms featuring Charles Cooper, President/Producer, Front Street Pictures, Gene George, President, Tesera Entertainment, Larry Grimaldi, SVP, Development and Production, MarVista Entertainment, Brad Krevoy, CEO, Motion Picture Corporation of America, and Chevonne O’Shaughnessy, President, American Cinema International
  • Producing Standout Documentary Features featuring Kevin Iwashina, Head of Documentary, Endeavor Content, Anna Godas, CEO, DogWoof, Ross Dinerstein, Founder and CEO, Campfire Studios, Dan O’Meara, EVP of Nonfiction, NEON and Co-Head, Super LTD, and Helen Huang, Acquisitions Consultant
  • The Casting Effect: How Talent Choices Impact Every Phase of Production featuring Milan Chakraborty, Head of Film, Marginal MediaWorks, Jennifer Kawaja, President, English Scripted, Sienna Films – a Sphere Media Company, Nat McCormick, EVP, Worldwide Distribution, The Exchange, Renee Tab, Founder and President, Sentient Entertainment, and Richard Botto, Founder and CEO, Stage 32
  • The Export Success of Black Cast Films from Africa featuring Pascal Schmitz, Head of Development, AAA Entertainment, Tracey-Lee Rainers, Story Consultant, Stiletto Entertainment, Sunni Faba, Script Writer, Nnegest Likké, Writer/Director, Mayenzeke Baza, Head of Distribution, AAA Entertainment

The full lineup and schedule of sessions to date can be found at https://sessions.americanfilmmarket.com/