AFM 2023 Chaotic, But Productive, Indie Film Distributors Say

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The annual American Film Market (AFM) ended its six-day run Nov. 5 at its new home, the Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica, and the verdict among independent film distributors who attended the event was that it was equal parts chaotic and productive.

Chaotic, because the venue change necessitated splitting the conference program from the hotel suites where most of the business gets done. Sessions were held at the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites, nearly a mile away. Parking information was vague, and the lines for elevators were as long as ever. Compounding the confusion was that the host hotel was being picketed by striking hotel workers belonging to Unite Here Local 11, who crowded the sidewalk while loudly chanting, banging drums and tooting horns. Their demands include higher wages and an end to bringing in replacement workers from homeless shelters on Skid Row.

And yet inside the film market, it was very much business as usual. “AFM was productive – it was great to have face time with so many sales agents, buyers and producers,” said Andreas Olavarria, president and CEO of Level 33 Entertainment. “As I’m sure many have remarked, there were challenges with the venue: it was difficult navigating the new location, elevators, maze-like halls and stairwells; not to mention the noise of striking hotel workers which seemed to affect mostly the priciest suites facing the ocean.”

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His takeaway of the current state of independent film distribution: “The SVOD business is more difficult and confusing than ever with so much consolidation, change of personnel and lack of clarity about who is actually buying indie films. AVOD is a bright spot, with many platforms doing meaningful business. Theatrical presents some opportunities but seems to be mostly about branding films ahead of VOD….”

Striking workers outside the Le Meridien Delfina in Santa Monica, Calif., during AFM 2023 (Media Play News staff photo).

Among several acquisitions, Level 33 nabbed North American rights to Cottontail, a drama from British director Patrick Dickinson that stars Lily Franky and Ciaran Hinds. The film had its world premiere late last month at the Rome Film Festival, where it picked up a prize for Best First Feature.

Mitch Mallon, the founder and CEO of Stadium Media, said his company “did not acquire anything in particular, but we did create a few new relationships with newer/startup production companies.  We also reconnected with companies that we have been in contact with for the past few years and a few of those look like they will be bringing some of their programs to Stadium Media in 2024.”

Mallon agrees that the show was productive. “We connected for the first time with local film commissions in our state, Arizona, which means Stadium Media will now be in the conversation for film makers as a possible asset for their production’s distribution.”

As for buzz, Mallon said “the one that surprised me is that I did not hear much discussion around the show floor  in the way of FAST channels, whereas the previous week while attending Sportel Monaco, the talk was all about FAST.”

Ed Seaman, CEO of MVD Entertainment Group, a family-run business that has been releasing music and film to home viewers since 1986, also gave the show high marks.

“We are considering a number of different product lines for acquisition but we don’t kiss and tell, not until the ink is dry,” he said. “Most importantly, anytime we can get together with our trade partners, have some quality time to explore opportunities and break bread, great things happen. And AFM this year did not disappoint.” 

Bill Sondheim of Greenfield Media LLC, a content consulting company, said he sees AFM as “as opportunity to buy and sell content. I was here to sell a few movies and was able to get several offers that I am now negotiating to complete the terms.”

Overall, he said, “I found the show exceptionally productive, and I was pleasantly surprised by the ease in setting very busy back-to-back meetings away from the main event hotel with meaningful distributors and platform operators. This allowed me to have quiet and engaged meetings in a pleasant environment. In just three days, I had 27 meetings and three delicious dinners. One dinner helped me secure a host for a TV series, another allowed me to get a few collector boxed sets in motion, and a final dinner provided ideas for new MOD services for international territories.”

That said, Sondheim added, “I heard frustration from many foreign sales companies that the new host hotel was not accommodating. I also heard attendance was down in part due to the huge attendance at MIPCOM a few weeks ago.”

On the product side, he said, “The disc dialog I heard centered around MOD and collector sets. MOD will extend the ability to get revenue out of an increasingly small consumer base for slower moving titles. Collector sets cater to an audience that wants a physical item to display because they are passionate fans, and that consumer may start to resemble the older vinyl consumer that has driven a retro hipness despite newer technologies.”

Attendees also commented that they felt the panel discussions, at 90 minutes, were far too long. Said one observer, “I felt like sticking needles in my eyes.”

AFM Panelists Discuss Variety of Content Distribution Options

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. — Flexibility is the name of the game in content distribution and so is finding the right niche for that content, according to panelists at the American Film Market.

“Know your audience,” Yolanda Macias, chief content officer at Cineverse, advised filmmakers. Cineverse includes genre-specific SVOD and ad-supported services amongst its many distribution opportunities, she noted.

“Go on these platforms and find where you feel your film would be on these platforms — what row in VOD it would be, what channel it would play on, what movies it would be surrounded by — and make that part of your narrative,” added Will Gurman, VP, global partnerships and content strategy, Paramount Streaming, which includes the ad-supported service Pluto TV.

“Pick a commercial genre and then just try to do something that is just slightly original within that genre so that it will stand out, and then just be very practical about your budget,” said J.J. Caruth, president, domestic marketing and distribution, The Avenue. She told a story about the outsized success her company had with the shark-themed The Black Demon, which was released on Amazon Prime Video in August and was the No. 1 movie on the service for three weeks.

“We had the right movie at the right time,” she said. “Obviously, everybody wants to see a shark movie during the summer.”

“You need a pocket of fandom,” agreed Gurman.

Cineverse tries to “design the best release strategy for [a filmmaker’s] piece of work,” Macias said. “The good news is we are in a time of disrupting the models.”

Macias talked about the many distribution windows for Cineverse’s horror hit Terrifier 2.

“We went out theatrically and we were blown away and ended up having a full run,” she said. “We took it out on Screambox, which is our own channel, as an exclusive for three months. And then a month later we took it out transactionally. There was no cannibalization between transactional and Screambox. And then we opened it up and looked for a co-license partner and Amazon stepped up and they paid us a license fee for a co-exclusive window with Screambox because it’s complementary since our services, our channels, are not general entertainment; they complement general entertainment. So we did that for another six months and then we opened it up to everyone. We’ve been playing around with this to learn.”

Gurman noted that Pluto TV has launched more than 20 previously subscription BET+ movies on the ad-supported service, “bringing those films to a potential new audience.”

“Since the pandemic there definitely are challenges, but there is also I think more flexibility and an openness to try new windows,” Caruth added.

There are “far fewer rules” in distribution strategies post-pandemic, said Kent Sanderson, president, acquisitions and ancillary distribution, Bleecker Street, and co-president, Decal (owned by Bleecker Street and Neon). “We build strategies around each movie individually.”

The studio’s Golda, starring Helen Mirren as the iconic Israeli leader, had a 25-day window to PVOD ($19.99 to rent digitally). Meanwhile, Jules, starring Ben Kingsley, the company released to digital with an EST purchase price of $14.99 for two weeks and then as a modestly priced rental because it was a smaller movie.

“Some of it’s guessing; some of it’s just trusting your gut because there’s not a lot of data at this point,” he said. “For us, it’s trying to see what works and trying to build in as much flexibility as you possibly can.”

The marketplace has been upended by the pandemic.

“Pre-covid, if you wanted to do a nationwide theatrical release and have support from the big chains, you needed to enforce a 74-day holdback to any kind of home entertainment exploitation,” he said. “It’s amazing what a worldwide pandemic can do to change things.”

Scott Shooman, head of film at AMC Networks, said his company, which includes such streaming options as the horror-themed SVOD service Shudder and AMC+, experiments with different distribution models to maximize revenue.

“We can experiment and try to learn more about how people want to see a movie and where,” he said.

AMC’s IFC Films and Shudder just acquired the supernatural thriller Late Night With the Devil, and it will transition through many different windows, Shooman said.

“IFC films will release the film in theaters, and then it will subsequently have a transactional life — you can buy it on your couch — as well as it will stream on Shudder,” he said.

The distribution path is still fluid, he said.

“One of the things we are experimenting with is does it make sense to go on the streaming service right after the theatrical and then go to transactional after or go to transactional and then go to Shudder,” he said.

“We’re trying to find out where the sweet spot is.”

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Independent Film Distributors Gear Up for AFM as Film Market Opens Today

Independent film distributors, whose target audience primarily watches movies at home, are gearing up for the annual American Film Market (AFM), which starts its six-day run today (Oct. 31) at Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica (530 Pico Blvd.).

Andreas Olavarria, president and CEO of Level 33 Entertainment, said he’s “looking to meet with sales agents and discover some good feature films for our 2024 slate of theatrical and on-demand releases. We are open to content in all genres, but typically look for movies with a strong hook and known cast/elements. We also are selling several wonderful feature films from festivals like Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca at the market this year.

Olavarria said he’s attended AFM for more than a decade “and bought many films over the years. We acquired the movie Simmer from Sublimity Entertainment, and it went on to air on HBO and Max after a successful VOD and DVD release. Deadly Cuts is a film we acquired from Myriad Picture at AFM, and it is currently on Showtime and Paramount+. We were approached last year by the director of the award-winning film Waikiki, which will be released in select theaters in November and on demand beginning in December.”

Ed Seaman

Ed Seaman, CEO of MVD Entertainment Group, a family-run business that has been releasing music and film to home viewers since 1986, also will be at AFM 2023.

“It is a great opportunity to spend face-to-face time with clients and customers, to have some time to be cerebral and creative with our trade partners,” Seaman said. “We are not so much looking to buy films here but strengthen our relationships, and build new ones. So often we think we know what our trade partners do until we have some unstructured time, and we find there are new ways we can help each other.”

Another indie who will be at AFM this year is Richard Wolff, CEO of Breaking Glass Pictures, which licenses about 30 titles a year and produces 10 films annually for worldwide distribution. “Yes, we are attending from the beginning to the last day,” Wolff said. “We’re looking for films of all genres – we’re hoping to secure about a dozen pictures.”

Wolff, too, is a longtime regular at AFM, “beginning when the market was in February. We always made great deals, as this is the last market of the year. I’m curious to see how the new venue fares – and the condition of the elevators!”

Bill Sondheim will also be at AFM this year. A veteran home entertainment executive who once was president of PolyGram Video when the company was approaching the ranks of the majors, he now runs Greenfield Media LLC, a content consulting company that helps content creators find distribution and financing for their films before they are made, helps producers develop and package films, and represents films already made for licensing deals.

“I am going to AFM and looking forward to a busy few days,” Sondheim said. “I have several films at various stages of development that I will be pitching to distributors. I also represent some distribution companies, and I will meet with program suppliers that might benefit from added distribution capabilities. This show allows me to meet with dozens of content companies in a pleasant and convenient meeting area.”

Bill Sondheim

Sondheim said he’s gone to AFM “for many years and always found it productive. Last year I sold two films as a producer that started with dialogs at AFM. I also got a new representation deal due to meetings at last year’s AFM. Going to the show is a very productive time.

Mitch Mallon, the founder and CEO of Stadium Media, also is attending the show. “We attend to continually measure where the business is and possibly progressing to, as well as to meet and establish initial relationships with some of the newer suppliers from the United States and around the globe.”

Stadium Media is a global distribution company established in 2015 with a catalog of over 400 titles. Mallon and his team work directly with most digital and OTT platforms throughout North America “and the ever-expanding global digital landscape,” Mallon said.

“I have been attending AFM since our launch and have met, and developed relationships with, several suppliers that we still work with to this day in releasing digitally. AFM is where I began to formalize what Stadium Media might become.”

Absent from AFM this year is Michael Rosenberg of Film Movement. “We went last year, but decided to skip it this year,” he said. “We’re in regular contact with everyone and saw a bunch of sales agents in Venice, at TIFF, and in Karlovy Vary. Also, we have a lot of films in the pipeline already at this time.”

Another no-show is Dan Gurlitz, the founder of Soundview Media Partners, which specializes in independent films as a sales agent, represents films for non-theatrical exhibition licensing, and publishes The Sound View: Independent Film Digest, a monthly publication focused on the release of unique films, both classic and contemporary.

AFM, he said, “is not a show that caters to the kind of films Soundview Media Partners traditionally specializes in. More importantly, business has been extraordinarily strong. Leads and new clients come in mostly via word of mouth, so there’s little need to attend a show like this at this time.”

AFM 2023 has lined up 245 exhibitors, according to organizers. Film screenings will be held at theaters throughout Los Angeles, while the AFM’s conference series will take place at The Hilton Santa Monica Hotel (1707 4th St).   

The exhibitor list features independent film and TV production, sales and distribution companies as well as national pavilions from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Thailand and the United Kingdom. International trade organizations, film commissions and production service companies also have a significant presence as part of this year’s enhanced LocationEXPO exhibition, according to organizers. 

Registrants include buyers from more than 65 countries, according to organizers.  

AFM 2023 Announces Initial Exhibitors, Programming

The American Film Market, running over six days Oct. 31 – Nov. 5 at its new headquarters located at Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica (530 Pico Blvd.) in Santa Monica, Calif., has signed up more than 245 exhibitors, according to organizers.

Industry screenings are set at theaters throughout the city and the AFM’s conference series, The AFM Sessions, will take place at The Hilton Santa Monica Hotel (1707 4th St).   

The exhibitor list features independent film and TV production, sales and distribution companies as well as national pavilions from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Thailand and the United Kingdom.  International trade organizations, film commissions and production service companies also have a significant presence as part of this year’s enhanced LocationEXPO exhibition, according to organizers. 

Exhibitors include such sales companies as: A24, AGC Studios, Altitude Film Sales, Amazon MGM Studios, Anton, Bankside Films, Beta Cinema, Black Bear Pictures, Blue Fox Entertainment, Charades, Cinema Management Group, CJ ENM, Emperor Motion Pictures, Film Mode Entertainment, FilmNation, GAGA Corporation, Gaumont, Global Screen GmbH, HanWay Films, Lakeshore, Lionsgate, MGM Studios, Millennium Media, Odin’s Eye Entertainment, Orange Studio, Pathé Films, Protagonist Pictures, SND Groupe M6, Studiocanal, Toei Company, TrustNordisk, Unifrance, Voltage Pictures, WME Independent, and XYZ Films. The current exhibitor list is here

Registrants include buyers from more than 65 countries to date, according to organizers.   

“All indicators are pointing to a strong AFM23 and we look forward to hosting the global industry in just a few weeks,” Jean Prewitt, IFTA president and CEO said in a statement. “Asia which was still impacted by COVID restrictions last year is well-represented again, as are the U.K. and Europe — especially Italy, France, Germany and Spain. AFM is the only major fall film market and its location, close to the beach as well as to the Los Angeles studios, streamers and agencies, solidifies it as an essential destination for the industry to meet, conduct business and celebrate independent film, even in the midst of current challenges.” 

Alongside the sales activity and screenings, The AFM Sessions will bring 30-plus panels across two stages over four days beginning Nov. 1.

Day one highlights include: 

  • Film Funding Today: The Benefits & Limitations of Global Tax Incentives
    Jeaneane Davey, Netflix, Patrick Rizzotti, Blue Fox Financing, Ryan Broussard, Wrapbook, and Will French, Fallbrook 
  • The Global Perspective: Breaking the Boundaries of Today’s Film Marketplace
    Christian Vesper, Fremantle, Syrinthia Studer, Paramount Pictures, Mark Gooder, Cornerstone and Steven Gaydos, Variety 
  • The Content Audiences Want & The Industry Needs to Provide 
    Lourdes Diaz, AGC Studios, Jeffrey Greenstein, Millennium Media, Joe Lewis, Amplify Pictures, and Maren Olson, 30WEST 

 

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Other programming highlights include:  

  • Changing Minds and Bettering Lives Through Storytelling: Karen Lunder, Imagine Entertainment, Anikah McLaren, Participant Media, and Jamal Henderson, The SpringHill Company 
  • Developing, Pitching, and Making Television: Nathan Varni, ABC/Disney, Kate Gill, Paramount Television Studios, Leila Cohan, writer and producer (“Bridgerton”), and Vijal Patel, writer and producer (“Black-ish”), and Richard Botto, Stage 32 
  • Harnessing the Power of Music for Film: Kris Le-Roy, Universal Production Music, Satya Fuentes, Netflix, Cristina May, music director and producer, Garo Setian, creative director, Jeff Cardoni, composer for film & television, and Ryan Svendsen, Millennium Media 
  • Fast Times in the Ad-Supported Distribution Landscape for Independents: Will Gurman, Paramount Streaming, Yolanda Macias, Cinedigm, and Tyler Aquilina, Variety Intelligence Platform 
  • The Pitch Conference: Cassian Elwes, Elevated Film Sales, Lorelle Lynch, AGC Studios, and Jee Jessup, Consultant 
  • Managing Common Legal Risks in Production: Phil Strina, Lionsgate, Kirk D’Amico, Myriad Pictures, Joanne Hoffman, Hoffman Entertainment Law and Roger Goff, Goff Law Corp. 
  • Getting Your Film Made, Seen, and Profitable in The Streaming Era:
    Brian Beckmann, Arclight Films, Juliet Berman, Spiral Stairs Entertainment, Sophia Dilley, Concord Originals, and Paul Scanlan, Legion M 
  • Economic Development: Moviemaking on Native Land: Joanelle Romero, Red Nation Celebration Institute, Allison Whitmer, Commissioner, Montana Film Office, Coni Shepperd, Southern Kentucky Film Commission, Cyndy McCrossen, Liaison, City of Albuquerque Film, Marcei Brown, Founder, Crewie, and Mike Fantasia, Former President, LMGI
  • Evolving Roles and Relationships: Sales Agents and Producers
    Clay Epstein, Film Mode Entertainment, Marc Goldberg, Signature Films, Mark Padilla, Jack Rabbit Media, and Nadine de Barros, Fortitude International 

 

The initial schedule and speakers can be viewed here.

Screen Media Acquires Rights to Michael Douglas Drama ‘Blood Knot’

Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, Nov. 4 announced the acquisition of worldwide rights to the upcoming drama Blood Knot and will have its Foresight Unlimited division launch international sales at AFM.

Blood Knot stars Cameron Douglas (The RunnerIt Runs in the Family) and Academy Award winner Michael Douglas (Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, “The Kominsky Method,” Benjamin Franklin in Paris) with the additional casting of other key roles underway. The film will be directed by Howard Deutch (“Young Sheldon,” “Empire”) and is written by Rowdy Herrington (Road House). Cartel Pictures’ Stan Spry (Creepshow) and Eric Scott Woods (Day of the Dead) will produce with Robert Mitas (“Ratched”). Screen Media’s David Fannon and Seth Needle will serve as executive producers, along with Foresight Unlimited’s Tamara Birkemoe and David Nagelberg.

The film follows a father who invites his estranged son to visit him in Puerto Rico to compete in a father/son fishing competition to try and mend their broken relationship. It is based on the book Looking Through Water by Bob Rich.
 
Blood Knot is a movie about redemption, love and forgiveness, about several generations of a family brought together and torn apart by mystery, murder and true confessions, with a cast led by Michael and Cameron Douglas,” Deutch said in a statement. “I could not be more thrilled to start production on Blood Knot.”

“We’re excited to work with Michael and Cameron and all the immense talent involved with Blood Knot,” said David Fannon, chief acquisitions and distribution officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. “We’ve been big fans of the story since we first read it and can’t wait to bring it to audiences around the world.”
 
The deal was negotiated by Seth Needle on behalf of Screen Media and by Stan Spry on behalf of Cartel.

AFM Panel: Future of Indie Film Distribution Bright, But More Complicated

The future of independent film distribution is bright, but it’s more complicated than in the past, said panelists Nov. 3 at the American Film Market in Los Angeles.

Theatrical distribution of independent films has taken a hit, especially in the wake of the pandemic, but the opportunities in digital distribution are expansive if you’ve got good content, said speakers on the “Forecasting the Future for Independent Film” panel.

“It might be that the theatrical portion is less, but the overall the pie is getting bigger,” said Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the executive board of Constantin Film.

“Theatrical is going to change,” said David Fannon, EVP of distribution at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, and president of Screen Media Ventures. “Everything is changing right now. It’s going to be different. Content is going be different — where it’s going to be viewed. But you know when television first came out, that was the death knell to movies, and it wasn’t. Home video was the death knell, and it wasn’t. DVD. Digital. And it hasn’t been. The only damaging thing to movies has been COVID. And that’s the one thing none of us really could expect or plan against. And we’re trying to recover from that. Now people have gotten used to watching things in their homes. The TVs are getting much bigger. It’s changing the viewing experience. But the communal experience to watch a movie and going to a theater, that will not die. It’s still going to be a part of the fabric of our lives.”

“I think indie films will continue to be in theaters,” agreed Ashley Stern, president, Picture Perfect Federation/Federation Entertainment of America. “I think that window may shrink a bit.”

Her company is open to different distribution models, she said.

“We at our company are very open to finding the right home for every single movie,” she said.

Digital distribution, especially ad-supported streaming, has not been fully tapped globally, Fannon said.

“I think Europe and the rest of the world still haven’t really taken on the AVOD opportunity yet,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a real boon to independent filmmakers, the opportunity that AVOD presents.”

While it provides a greatly expanded platform for content, streaming requires indie filmmakers to step up content quality, panelists said.

“There’s going to be an unlimited need for content, but it’s got to be good,” Fannon said. “It’s got to be good content. I hate to say this, but I’ve been a con man for a good part of my career. I used to say, just give me good artwork and a good trailer and I’ve got a movie and I could sell it. But in this new world that’s not going to cut it so much. I need the consumer to stay. I need them to watch it and enjoy it. I need the Rotten Tomatoes score to be high. There’s a lot of other things that are going on that we didn’t have to worry about before. DVD was just, let’s get a good cover together. Put the artwork on the cover and you’re gonna rent DVDs. That’s all you needed. Give me a couple of names in the cast. It was easy. Now it’s going to be hard because you’ve really got to look for quality content.”

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The type of content is changing with streaming as well, with opportunities for longer-form, miniseries-type storytelling offering “the freedom to tell a real story, to go beyond the limits of a 90-minute movie,” he said.

“You’ve got a little more flexibility to really tell the story properly, so I think it’s an abundance of opportunity,” he said.

Panelists said data on content is still hard to get from streaming platforms.

They offer general data trends “but no specifics,” Stern said.

“They’re sharing some more data than they used to,” Moszkowicz said, but he said he thinks data is “overrated.”

“If you talk to people at the streamers and you know them one on one, they will tell you that metrics are way overrated,” he said.

AFM Nov. 1-6 Has Attracted More Than 225 Exhibitors

With the 43rd edition of the American Film Market (AFM) set to open live in just under two months, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) has announced initial details as well as two key hires for the 2022 show.

AFM will commence in Santa Monica, Calif., at the Loews Beach Hotel and theaters throughout the city Nov. 1 and run for six days through Nov. 6.  

So far, 225 companies have registered as exhibitors for the sales market, including sales, production and distribution companies, as well as international trade organizations, film commissions and production service companies. Confirmed exhibiting companies include A24, Altitude Film Entertainment, Charades, CJ ENM, Contents Panda, Emperor Motion Pictures, Film Mode Entertainment, FilmNation, Gaumont, Gaumont, Global Screen GmbH, Hanway Films, Lakeshore, Lionsgate, Magnolia Pictures, MGM Studios, Millennium Media, Pathé Films, Protagonist Pictures, Screen Media, Sierra/Affinity, Studiocanal, Toei Company, Ltd., TrustNordisk, Unifrance, Voltage, WME Independent and XYZ Films.

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“The early commitments and excitement by companies around the world to be in Santa Monica, along with the projects coming together, say that the industry is back to business,” IFTA’s president and CEO Jean Prewitt, said in a statement. “While business models have clearly shifted, independent film will forever be built on discovery, collaboration, innovation and serendipity, making the need for annual face-to-face gatherings like AFM essential to our industry.” 

Alongside the sales activity, the AFM offers conferences and opportunities to network.  The AFM Sessions’ opening Finance Conference — “The Risk Takers” — will bring leading independent financiers, producers and executives Jason Cloth (founder and CEO, Creative Wealth Media), Milan Popelka (COO, FilmNation), Laura Lewis (founder, Rebelle Media), and Basil Iwanyk (founder, Thunder Road Pictures) to the stage the morning of Nov. 2. The AFM Sessions presented by Cast & Crew and Spcine will feature more than 100 speakers across two stages inside the Loews Hotel.  The current schedule and speakers can be viewed here

In addition, the IFTA  announced new executive additions to its AFM team. Matthew Thompson and Catherine Girard-Cobb have been appointed to the newly created roles of co-managing directors of AFM, reporting to Prewitt. They join long-time IFTA VPs Jennifer Garnick and Robin Burt to develop and support the overall vision, operations and production of the AFM.  

Thompson, who brings 25 years of event management and production experience, will oversee the AFM attendee segment and is responsible for registration, hotels, transportation, conference production and the networking platform MyAFM.  He previously served as an event director and consultant for clients including Adweek, the Tribeca Film Festival, Nespresso and the Skirball Cultural Center.              

Girard-Cobb, who will manage the AFM exhibitor experience, including registration, film screenings, and furniture and equipment, is a 20-year event veteran. She has successfully managed large-scale trade shows and live and virtual events most of her career, most recently for London-based Clarion Events, Quartz North America and Bobit Business Media’s 20 annual market-specific events.  

“Matthew and Catherine bring a wealth of combined event experience in line with the AFM,” Prewitt said in a statement. “Their skills and insights complement our established and talented team and strengthen our ability to meet the changing needs of our industry as we look to our in-person return this year and the future.”

IFTA and AFM Exec Jonathan Wolf to Step Down

The Independent Film & Television Alliance announced that Jonathan Wolf, managing director of its American Film Market and EVP of the trade association, will step down when his current term ends on June 30.  

Jonathan Wolf

Wolf, who has led the AFM for 24 years, will continue on as an advisor through the 2022 AFM, which is set to make its in-person return to Santa Monica for the 43rd edition Nov. 1-6. 

Under Wolf’s leadership, the AFM transformed from its import-export roots to an event that serves and includes the entire independent film production and distribution community.

During his tenure, Wolf enhanced the market’s tools for buyers and sellers. He launched TheFilmCatalogue.com, a leading industry resource with information on thousands of projects and films available from global producers, distributors and sales companies, and its companion “TFC Weekly Update” email. He also introduced networking and education programs, including multi-stage conferences and panels, and the MyAFM online platform. 

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“Jonathan has been central to the success of the association’s growth and transitions,” IFTA’s president and CEO Jean Prewitt said in a statement. “He consistently has focused on making the AFM the best place for the industry to do business and has built an outstanding and long-established AFM team who share his commitment to excellence. We are grateful that Jonathan will be available to advise through the 2022 market.”

“It’s been a privilege to lead the AFM and work with passionate volunteer board members for more than 20 years,” Wolf said in a statement. “I was supported by a terrific team that worked tirelessly to produce a world class event; we achieved much together.  I’m excited to see what the future holds — for the AFM, IFTA and me.” 

With the IFTA, Wolf spearheaded the launch of IFTA Collections, the industry’s first centralized service for the collection and distribution of royalties and levies from secondary audio-visual rights for films and television programming.  To date, IFTA has collected more than $150 million for its clients and continues to distribute more than $5 million annually.   

Wolf’s connection to the IFTA began as an elected board member and vice chairman, finance, while CFO at IFTA Member New World International. He joined the association as SVP in 1993 and was appointed to lead the AFM as managing director in 1998.

AFM to Make In-Person Return to Santa Monica Nov. 1-6

The American Film Market will return to Santa Monica for its 43rd edition, taking place in person Nov. 1 to 6, the Independent Film & Television Alliance announced.

The market, which planned its shift to a six-day run in 2020, will take place at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and theaters throughout the city.

Registration will open May 9 for exhibitors.  Accredited Buyers and Industry Attendees may register beginning July 5.

The Loews Hotel will be home to sales and production companies, LocationEXPO, and, new for 2022, all conferences and panels.

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“There is more excitement about the future than I’ve seen in two years and in-person markets are more vital than ever,” Clay Epstein, chairperson, IFTA and president of Film Mode Entertainment, said in a statement. “The desire to return to Santa Monica for AFM is at an all-time high and we are eager to reunite the global industry in November.”

AFM Panelists: Disc Still Spinning at Independent Studios

While much of the discussion among panelists at the virtual American Film Market running Nov. 1-5 has been about digital distribution, independent supplier speakers have also noted that physical disc is still an important part of the pipeline.

“We still will release a DVD and Blu-ray on each film,” said Michael Murphy, president of Gravitas Ventures. “That’s going to be manufacture-on-demand in most cases. Our filmmakers like that, and if we can do it in a cost-effective manner, it’s still worth it.”

Disc revenue is still hanging on and filling the coffers at Screen Media.

At Screen, DVD has been a surprisingly stubborn revenue stream,” said Michael Messina, EVP of distribution at Screen Media. “And it’s actually grown for us in recent years after obviously dropping for a very long time. The past two to three years we’ve seen strong DVD sales.”

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J.J. Caruth, president of domestic marketing and distribution at The Avenue, noted Redbox is a key part of keeping the disc spinning.

“We’re still seeing some DVD revenue and, of course, Redbox is a part of that,” he said. “If you can do a deal with Redbox, there’s definitely some money to be made there as well for the right genre of movie.”