The American Film Market took place from Oct. 31 through Nov. 5th at its new headquarters at the Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica. There were industry screenings at theaters throughout the city. The renowned AFM Sessions were held at the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel.
The American Film Market (AFM) is an annual film industry event in early November. Historically, more than 7,000 people have attended the weeklong annual event to network, sell, finance, and acquire films. Participants come from more than 70 countries and include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, etc. Founded in 1981, the AFM is a marketplace for the film business, where, unlike a film festival, production and distribution deals are the main focus of the participants.
This year’s Market was met with the deafening roar of labor unrest, blowing horns and banging drums, with picket lines formed by hotel workers from Unite Local 11. Their thunderous cry was for more equitable wages and the alleged hiring of homeless migrants as replacement staff. Even though getting past the strikers daily was uncomfortable and annoying, I supported their valid grievances.
I’m sure the WGA writers and SAG-AFTA Union workers could relate to being held down by the man. Anyway, in the hotel, business buzzed as usual with the anxious filmmaking and distributing crowd.
In the ever-evolving world of film distribution, the market and film production has diminished due to more streaming wars, global economic stressors, pirating, budget cuts, box office bombs, and lower-priced buy-out deals. On the other hand, filmmaking is still being stimulated but is adopting its new direction. Markets like AFM are still very active and making deals.
Disrupting Traditional Distribution Channels: Streaming services have disrupted the traditional distribution model of movies, challenged the dominance of theaters, and altered how films reach audiences. This shift has both positive and negative implications.
Streaming services have changed the film industry in numerous ways. One of the most significant changes is how films are financed and produced. With the rise of independent production companies, filmmakers now have more opportunities to secure funding for their projects.
How are streaming services disrupting the market? It is undeniable that streaming, by removing many of the intermediaries in the old music business model, has shrunk the business. The status quo crumbled: As revenues shrunk, and moved from the studios to the streamers, the companies that represented the status quo imploded.
Ultimately, the buyers and sellers are adjusting to the new normal and making the deals necessary to keep their businesses and the industry afloat.
AFM was a buzz with anxious film industry people trying to make deals. I saw more positive parties than negative ones. The exact results of the attendees’ endeavors will take months to measure. Closing deals is an ongoing process that will develop in upcoming years as this year’s deals go to fruition. In this ever-changing world, even the measuring stick changes. The film box office is questionable as to just how far it will drop but its competitors, streaming and the like, are still on the rise.
Public perception is also a significant cultural challenge facing the film industry. There has been growing concern over issues such as representation and diversity in film in recent years. Many audiences call for greater diversity on screen, and there is a growing awareness of the need for more inclusive storytelling. Failure to address these concerns can lead to a negative public perception of the film industry.
AFM addresses this issue in many capacities. It has filmmakers and buyers from around the globe, allowing a diverse message and look to be spread across the US and the world.
Here are ten of the Special Sessions that AFM offered that promoted diversity:
- Six Imperatives for Rendering Black Lives in Media
- The Global Perspective: Breaking the Boundaries of Today’s Film Marketplace
- International Co-Production with China: Navigating Filmmaking Without Boundaries
- The Content Audiences Want, and the Industry Needs to Provide
- Funding Queer Narratives: Financing LGBTQIA+ Stories with Social Impact
- Faith & Family: Satisfying the Growing Global Audience Demand for Uplifting Content
- Cross-Border Collaborations: Creating Powerful Co-Productions & Partnerships
- Economic Development: Moviemaking on Native Land
- Re-Framing Gender-Inclusive Hiring: How Producers are Shifting the Narrative
- Casting for the Era of Representation
The film industry faces numerous challenges threatening its sustainability, ranging from technological disruptions and financial constraints to limited diversity and censorship. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including filmmakers, studios, investors, and audiences.
AFM can (and is) a catalyst to help make the necessary adaptations to help the film business grow in a positive, diverse, and fruitful direction.
I’ve heard people say that the AFM ticket prices are high, and they weren’t sure if it would be worth it for them to go. You should go if you have a genuine reason or need to be there.
In the big scheme of things, the price is more than fordable if you can make that deal that makes your dreams and hard work a reality.
It’s a fraction of what it would cost to go to Canne or Belin. It’s cheaper than going to the Toronto Film Festival, too. And as far as the smaller independent filmmakers are concerned, AFM would probably give you a much better shot at success than those festivals.
By investing in technology, improving diversity, and promoting creative freedom, the film industry can adapt to the changing landscape and continue to produce engaging content for audiences worldwide.
If you’re in the business of producing films or trying to distribute. You have to hit the markets and or festivals. These things don’t sell themselves, and landing an agent who can while you sit at home is not ideal.
For film and television executives and producers, the key will be adaptability. By understanding these shifts and staying agile, they can navigate this transforming market, ensuring that stories continue to be told and reach eager audiences worldwide. As the curtain rises on this new act in the film industry, there’s no doubt that innovation and resilience will take center stage.
With two significant, long industry strikes and industry numbers going down, the naysayers like to cackle doom and gloom. The film industry is “shaken, not stirred” and will not only survive but probably thrive as it goes through its growing pains. In many respects, the industry seems broken, and it is. But it’s too valuable and appealing for an industry to continue to spiral downhill. Many see theatrical coming back somewhat as the smoke and setbacks settle. Many other distribution models continue to rise as advertising breathes new life into them. The rebalancing of the economic landscape looks to a brave new future.