Amidst the challenges posed by the global pandemic over the past two years, the American Film Market will be going virtual from November 1 to 5 on its proprietary interactive campus AFM 2021 Online which was built in 2020 for the second year in a row. As the opening of the last major global film industry event on the 2021 calendar, which is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance kicked off on a bright note, Jonathan Wolf, Managing Director, American Film Market, tells Vivek Ratnakar and Natarajan Vidyasagar,Pickle in detail about major challenges and what participants can look forward to in this edition.
The American Film Market is being organized online second year in a row. How has been the response and what can participants expect from this edition?
The AFM virtual platform will be presenting an engaging and effective environment for discovery, education, deal making, networking and reconnecting. More than 300 production and sales companies, as well as international trade organizations from 25+ countries have already registered as exhibitors for the market. AFM will also bring its distinguished Conferences and educational programming back online with two stages running simultaneously and featuring more than 50 live sessions exploring film topics from script to screen. The sessions will also be made available the same day on-demand for attendees to stream at their convenience.
Over 150 industry professionals and decision makers will participate in AFM 2021 Online’s programming lineup. Over five days, 7,000+ professionals from 70+ countries will access the entire global catalogue of available films and projects, attend world class conferences, and connect with decision makers.
What are the new features added in this year’s edition?
As far as new session highlights are concerned, AFM 2021 Online will feature a story analyst’s approach to screenwriting, focus on Animation as a growing territory for independents, and sessions like Black Filmmakers at the Crossroads to Success (presented in partnership with AAFCA), Bridging the Production Insurance Gap, The Casting Effect: How Talent Choices Impact Every Phase of Production, International Film Market: Consumption of Black Culture, Rejection of Black Stories (presented in partnership with NAACP)and New Perspective on Horror.
In addition, AFM has announced its lineup of eight Premiere Sponsors. The sponsors, each of which will present a dedicated location on the AFM 2021 Online campus, include Apojo Publications, Entertainment Partners, Filmhub, Honolulu Film Office, JAPAN/JETRO, Media Services Payroll, Polish Film Institute, and Whip Media.
How will you make sure that the virtual platform would serve AFM’s diverse constituency?
The AFM is the most efficient film acquisition, development and networking event in the world. Over US$1 billion in production and distribution deals are closed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production. The pivot to online would allow for all stakeholders around the world to participate in the market. It offers a good opportunity for people to explore different ways of accessing people. Only about a third of AFM’s participants are buying and selling. The other two-thirds are part of the production community. There are producers, writers, film commissions, lawyers, bankers, sales agents and those who provide production facilities. So, the platform was created so as to make sure that we could serve that diverse constituency.
AFM is known for handholding and supporting global independent film makers. What can they expect to gain from this virtual edition?
The global film industry has set aside this week (November 9-13) to connect for deal making, presentations, and education, and to gather marketplace intel from one another. AFM’s engaging online experience, with the types of serendipitous meetings that happen organically in the halls, hotels and parties each year in Santa Monica, will keep everyone in touch and ensure that independent film continues to reach audiences around the world.
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.
Tell us about major challenges that the global pandemic has posed for independents and how does AFM plan to help them reconnect?
The challenges posed by streaming platforms, exacerbated by the global pandemic over the past two years, have been formidable for independents. However, despite the tumult of paradigm-shifting moves by monolithic media corporations, the ingenuity and experience of independent buyers, sellers, producers and financiers of all sizes has, by and large, enabled them to survive.
AFM 2020 showed us that how a crisis can be converted into an opportunity. At a time when the world is gripped by Covid-19 pandemic, American Film Market was conducted in a successful manner by taking the virtual route. AFM firmly believes that for the resilient independents who are willing to look for the best talent and scripts and find innovative ways to attract actors and directors, human connection is critical, even if that means meeting people virtually thousands of miles apart on a laptop.
AFM 2021 is being organized at a time when there is still uncertainty about when theaters around the world will open. How will you address this challenge?
We are optimistic that theaters will be open around the world by at least mid-summer. A lot of the business that’s done at the AFM is done on films that haven’t started shooting yet. So the business is really about films for a year from now. And so I expect to see a lot of business taking place.
Committed to continue spreading the Joy of Cinema, the 52nd edition of International Film Festival of India invites delegates participating in Toronto Film Festival from all over the world
The 52nd edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI), slated to be held in a hybrid format from 20 to 28 November 2021 in Goa, looks all set to offer enthralling experience to delegates who are expected to join its physical as well as virtual segments showcasing 300+ screenings during the festival days.
Extending a warm welcome to delegates participating in Toronto Film Festival, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur took to his Twitter handle recently and invited filmmakers and film enthusiasts from around the globe to be a part of IFFI in Goa.”Calling out to Filmbuffs! Delegate registration for 52nd edition of IFFI is now open! Inviting filmmakers and film enthusiasts from around the world to be a part of IFFI in Goa,” tweeted.
Among the many highlights and innovations planned during 52nd IFFI include a parallel fest dedicated to the cinema from BRICS member countries and screening of some of the best works of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray as part of his centenary celebrations.
“BRICS film festival to be organised along with the 52nd International Film Festival of India in Goa in November this year will be an opportunity to interact and share the best of cinema,” said Information and Broadcasting Secretary Apurva Chandra.
This year, the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award has been added to the list of awards conferred upon filmmakers from across the globe to recognise their contributions to world cinema. Lifetime Achievement Award was already there and it has now been renamed after the legendary filmmaker to mark his centenary. Indian Film Personality of the Year Award, Centenary Award for best debut film of a Director, and ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Award are the names of some of the other awards, besides the Awards for International Competition that will be given away to deserving filmmakers.
A special webpage has been set up where works of Ray and different aspects of filmmaking by the maestro have been put together. As far as restoration of Ray’s films is concerned, the Directorate of Film Festivals has collaborated with people who have restored the master filmmaker’s works that would be showcased at the festival. So far, the Directorate has received 622 films from 95 countries and selections will be unveiled shortly. This year, IFFI will feature at least 16 sections including International Competition, Festival Kaleidoscope, World Panorama, Retrospective of Masters, Country Focus, Retrospective of Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Indian Panorama among others.
To allay fears regarding spread of COVID-19 during the festival, Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, Directorate of Film Festivals, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Festival Director of IFFI had earlier said that IFFI team would ensure that “every guest who comes to India becomes IFFI’s responsibility the moment he steps on the Indian soil”.
“We had created systems last year, and there is no cause of worry if International participants are landing at airports in cities like Kolkata, Mumbai or Delhi. There we have appointed teams to look after them because it is our responsibility that guests come to India hassle free, enjoy the flavor of IFFI and go back contented and satisfied,” he added.
IFFI’s theme has been “Joy of Cinema”, which is something that overrides any firewall, as the creative construct of IFFI is wired to get the best of cinema from across the world.
The preparations for the 52nd edition of the IFFI have begun in full swing and some big names in the world cinema are expected to be part of it. Being planned as a hybrid event due to Covid-19, the festival would screen films on its official digital platform along with the theatrical screenings in Goa, which is subject to the prevailing conditions.
Asia’s oldest event of its kind, IFFI still holds on to its pre-eminent position as a showcase of cinematic excellence. It has over the years witnessed numerous alterations in character, nomenclature, location, dates and duration. Through it all, it has remained steadfast in its emphasis on showcasing the diversity of Indian cinema as well as in its commitment to the celebration of excellence across moviemaking genres.
Over the past two and a half decades, several other international film festivals have sprung up across India, notably in Kolkata, Kerala and Mumbai, and they all contribute meaningfully to the collective task of taking quality cinema to people weaned principally on a staple diet of star-driven, song and dance extravaganzas. But IFFI continues to retain its preeminent position owing to its size, scope and vintage.
Not just in the Indian context but also in relation to the other major Asian film festivals, IFFI matters. And this is despite all the inevitable ups and downs that it has seen over the years.
All the other major Asian festivals – Tokyo, Busan and Shanghai – are of far more recent origin and therefore lack the history that is associated with IFFI. IFFI hands out prize money to the tune of US$ 200,000. The winner of the Golden Peacock for the best film takes home $80,000. That apart, the best director and the Special Jury Prize winner bag $30,000 each, while the two acting prizes come with a cash component of $20,000 each.
The moves to push IFFI up a few notches have unfolded since the coastal state of Goa became its permanent venue in 2004. IFFI now has a far more settled feel than ever before, with each improvement in terms of infrastructure and programming initiatives adding value to both the event and the location.
On the programming side, IFFI not only unveils the best films from around the multilingual country with the aim of providing a glimpse of the sheer range and dynamism of Indian cinema, it also puts together a remarkable slate of brand new world cinema titles.
IFFI also hosts many retrospectives, tributes, master classes and special sections, which enhance the variety and depth of the event. The master classes have emerged as a highlight of the festival, especially for film school students who converge in Goa during the ten-day event.
52nd IFFI Highlights
• IFFI will showcase around 300+ screenings during festival days • IFFI will have various sections ranging from World Panorama, where films from across the world will be showcased, to Festival Kaleidoscope, International, Debut and ICFT Competition sections, retrospectives, homage, special screenings. • This edition will also have Master Frames (focusing on renowned cinematographers across the world), Masters of Cinema (focusing on master filmmakers across the world), sports section, Bharat ka Amrit Mahotsav, focus on cinema from BRICS countries, Soul of Asia (focusing on the films of Asia) as major highlights of the festival. • IFFI will have its own virtual platform for delegates to sit back and enjoy the festival from their living rooms. The virtual platform will provide access to registered delegates to watch all the films on the platform at any given time as per their convenience, they can also access live streaming of Masterclasses and In-Conversation sessions, workshops and special events during the festival days. • The live streaming of opening and closing ceremony can also be watched from home on virtual platform as also on social media platforms.