BY AUSTIN BURBRIDGE. SANTA MONICA (CINEMA MINIMA) — The 28th American Film Market (2007) took place at a watershed moment in the business cycle of independent film. “Now, too many movies chasing too few outlets,” was the blunt summary by one participant. “It has been relatively easy to find money to make a movie; but the money for distribution has been limited. Big media around the world have been consolidating, and they are not looking for as much independently made stuff.”
On the one hand, a market table groaning under a splendid mass of more than 500 features — more than a hundred world premieres, more than 350 market previews — on offer to distributors. An excellent synchronization of the market with the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2007 added a gloss of nighttime publicity and prestige to the daily business of deals and distribution. The market and the festival together make the largest such event in North America, and constitute the largest gathering of film industry professionals. This 2007 AFM offered abundance and variety in the merchandise brought to market by producers and filmmakers from around the world. The supply side of the market is the sunny side of the street.
However, the demand side of the street was under the shadow of severe constraints. As multinational corporations consolidate their ownership into vertically integrated monopolies (or near-monopolies) — which is to say, they can manufacture the content that they show on the media and in the venues they already own — they have less need to pick up content produced independently. International markets for home video are limited as never before.
New media has been seen on the horizon as a distant, approaching rescuer of independently produced motion pictures. Now, as it gets closer, it offers some small prospects of new channels for distribution, but with considerable constraints. A tremendous amount of time has been spent (and will be spent) negotiating new media rights. In this respect the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) — which organizes the AFM — makes significant contributions by offering the benefits of its research — and the experiences of its members — in the form of model contracts. Notwithstanding the resources available to grasp and to trade rights, revenue and revenue turnover — “How much? and When?” — are still complex issues which have yet to be resolved for efficient deal-making in the still-emerging new media environment. [Cinema Minima archive story 2007 November 6]