This year’s AFM in Santa Monica hosted at the Lowes and Le Merigot Hotels sparkled with activity as attendees and exhibitors swarmed the floors, lobby, pool and luncheon areas, and seminars.
In the suites, buyers and sellers looked to exchange products and quite a few had successful experiences. Several of my favorite companies made their home on the third floor where the smaller production entities worked to display their wares.
Asked what made them and their products unique, I received these answers:
Adler & Associates Entertainment’s Jeremy Lunt spoke of Marie Adler. A native of North Carolina, she is the founder of their company. At an early age she became a formidable player in the lending industry and soon saw a way to market things without using the middleman from there she progressed to films.
“With movies there are so many more variables, so many more data sets to consider. Like finance, the film business has always been risky and unpredictable, and if you don’t understand your market and your customer there is no way you can properly manage those risks. I’m always keeping in mind the investors ROI and minimizing their risk while maintaining the integrity of the film.”
A new indie company, Adler & Associates Entertainment was founded in 2010. They like taking risks by championing first time filmmakers, A-list actors making their directorial debut, and talented writers. “We have an unbiased eye for fresh talent from around the globe.” Their company slogan is “lean, mean and green.” Adler plans on educating the globe – about eco-friendly land use and air pollution – while entertaining. Expanding their production and marketing budgets to six million will guarantee more theatrical releases.
Some of their films include The Menkoff Method – starring Robert Taylor who currently plays in the Netflix‘s Longmire – a workplace comedy from director David Parker. Lachlan Woods plays the underdog hero. The Terrorist – features James Russo and Robert Miano – in a suspense thriller which will have universal appeal but also deals with racial profiling and government surveillance. Another of their films include Some Are Born – a cautionary tale about potential evil looking in even innocent people. This latter film was shot by local Michigan filmmakers in an effort to support filmmaking in the state where jobs are desperately needed.
Joe Dogs – now finishing production – is a true crime story about a mob figure in The Gambino Familywho stood up to them.
Ms. Adler intends on taking Hollywood by storm!
TriCoast WorldWide is one of the top studios I visited. Marcy Hamilton, one of the CEO’s, told me they now do not only production and financing on their own, but post-production, sales and distribution, as well. Some of their more popular films just coming out are Ten Days In a Madhouse staring Caroline Barry, Christopher Lambert, Julia Chantrey and Kelly Le Brock as well as Russian star Alexandra Callas. Directed by Timothy Hines, the story deals with the pioneer female reporter Nellie Bly at age 23 who locked herself in an 1887 mad house to prove the poor conditions that the mentally handicapped suffered from. It was her work that the exposed the brutality toward patients whom she believed were as sane as she was. (Even more interesting than Erin Brockovich.)
Another of their films, Wind Walkers –a supernatural thriller – tells the story of native Americans are able to posses people and create zombies.
They are hoping with their VOD content, they can take their films and television productions directly to market without the middleman. For this they are looking for completed TV series and movies of all genres and will consider assisting with a partial investment.
Euramco – an accidental meeting in the elevator with filmmakers Mark Eccles and Stephen Lodenzofrom South Africa/ Riverbend Media brought me to the suite were Alice Campbell Romano and her husband Renato are relaunching their sales and distribution company Euramco , which has been assisting Riverbed Media with the packaging of its new film A King’s Heart.
Riverbed Media a South African based film production company, was in town packaging and selling its first full length motion picture, A King’s Heart , the story about a boy’s courage to make a man’s decision as he develops a unique relationship with an injured male lion. Primarily a story about the redemption of a family, the film plays out in the magnificent African landscape. One of Riverbed Media’s successes during the market was to track down South African film director Jann Turner, now living and working in LA, who has agreed to direct the film when it goes into production next year.
One of Euramco’s films which I found fascinating is Moishe all American – an Orthodox Brooklyn boy who discovers his true self playing football in the deep South. The film is helmed by actress/director Melanie Mayron.
Renato Romano, an Italian businessman established his own company in 1978 as he helped create Italy’s first private television network. Along with others they were part of the founding group for the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA) and MIFED.
Shoreline Entertainment‘s Melody Djavadi, acquisitions executive, told of their new movie, Symphony of the Wild – a musical wild life adventure produced by two lovely South African ladies as well as An American Story – the true story of the Tesla invention. The later was shown at Cannes. CEO Morris Ruskin, himself, produced three forthcoming films – Learning To Breathe, Alex And Eve, and I Had A Bloody Good Time. The later being a horror comedy with a well-known cast. While they do some productions (with attachments,) they prefer completed films and like action, sci-fi, and family.
Melody said “Never say drama when you’re pitching. It’s a dead word. Always combine your genres even if it is really a drama.”
Cobalt Pictures – run by Travis Mann, who himself has a law background,
knows that integrity in story is crucial. While doing international sales as well as production, he wants his brand to be uplifting and positive films, but ones with broad commercial appeal. He likes true stories, especially ones with inspiring messages. He recently began pre-production of his film, Irena’s Vow. “It was one of the best Christian scripts I’ve read…and the writer wasn’t Christian. He’s written a true story – not having an agenda to preach or lecture – a wonderful tale that stood the test of time.” The movie will be available at next year’s AFM.
We discussed the faith versus family and while some producers believe that one must be Christian to write a good faith film, he understands that an inspiring tale, one that is emotionally truthful, can be scripted by any excellent writer. “Faith and family can come together and be authentic with courage and conviction. They do not have to be overly religious to be good stories.
The umbrella of faith films has to be wider. Jesus’ parables were great short stories. ‘Let those who have ears to hear, hear.’ Stories have meaning to those attuned in a deeper fashion.” He gives Blindside and Chariots of Fire as two examples of stories that fit his vision.
Another two of his films are Heroes of Dirt – a biker who is dying to do stunts and must mentor a troubled teen, and Jake – a Nashville country singer who, after being told his father is dead, discovers him drunk, working as a roadie, and reconnects with him after fighting numerous obstacles. In this, his second year at AFM, he’s experiencing quite a few successes. His goal is to finance a slate of pictures that follow his position. Last year he had 24 films at AFM, this year he had 36.
It sounds like Travis Mann is on a roll.
Lawford County Productions – young filmmaker Jed Brian hails from a small Southern Illinois town. Having self-taught himself about the industry, he wrote, financed and produced his own horror film, Unlisted Owner, and he’s having good luck selling it.
The found footage story is told in the style of Blair Witch with a handheld camera and teens who discover a house, unhabited by humans after a recent murder, but now have to deal with its otherworldly residents. He hopes to shortly start a sequel.
Boulderlight Pictures – I was welcomed into their suite by Raphael Margules, who met his filmmaking partner, J.D. (Jordan David) Lifshitz when they were yeshiva students in New York and discovered they both had a passion for movies. Their films are anything but Orthodox.
Starting out in 2011 with horror, which is one of the easiest to produce and sell, their first film Contractedis a one night stand –from hell. After she’s picked up at a bar, a young woman believes she has an STD (sexually transmitted disease) only to find out that it’s a lot more deadly than she bargained for. This runaway hit has received glowing accolades from the movie community. Because that was so successful, they’re in the process of finishing Contracted #2, which has already been pre-bought for North America and at the AFM, they were selling worldwide rights.
Among their other films are Dementia, which hits the theatres December 4, 2015. Most people think they can trust their nurses but in this story…let’s just say it’s Misery for the elder, and Uncaged – a new take on werewolf films to be released 2016.
While they work a lot with horror, they are open to other genres, too, and are always looking for low budget excellent material.
Butterfly Angel Entertainment – Alex Polar is the writer/director of this documentary house. She loves doing movies about causes and other things that interest her. Also open to scripted shows, she likes things with a message. Adventures in LaLa Land tells the story of a school teacher who, while trying to make ends meet, teaches by day, but swings as a hot hip-hop DJ at the Sugar Pimp Club by night – showing that women can succeed in this male dominated world. .
Her forthcoming TV series include John The Barber and The Not So Late Show – whichaims at kids 12-17 who want a late show of their own to express views…only this won’t be so late. Both shows have had interested parties.
There Ain’t No Sheer Luck is the story of pomade in a barber shop and deals with the vanishing barber trade. Starring Donnie Hawley, an old fashioned character barber who believes that barbering is for men only, Alex follows his odyssey as he fights the system. She’s currently writing a book about Donnie’s adventures that may or may not appear on screen.
Rebel Movies – Though it is a new company -and this is the first AFM for him, Jose M Pulido, the owner, has been working in the entertainment industry for many years. Their current films are Malevolent – where evil has a pretty face – staring Mischa Barton and Ravenous with Tara Reid.
Now based in Madrid, Spain, Jose does many of his films here in Los Angeles and concentrates on low budget horror, but is looking to expand into other genres. They like epics, sci-fi, and action. They are especially interested in psychological thrillers and plan on expanding into other areas.
Leomark – founded by Erik Lundmark and Maria Collis the pair have been actively doing films for many years now. Erik, a musician, also scored and did sound for many of the films they distribute. One of his first movies was a documentary about motor cycles Let’s Ride. He then did another movie Where Cars Don’t Dare about dirt bikes as well as a Lifetime Series with models on bikes.
Star Leaf – one of their recent films – sold to Germany’s Lighthouse Home Entertainment just before AFM. “Some highs are out of this world as three friends find a secret forest of extraterrestrial marijuana hidden deep in the Olympic Mountains. But when one of them steals the sacred leaf, the trio must fight for their lives against enemies from another world.” Fast becoming a cult classic, Star Leaf was just released on iTunes in October. Already it has gone to the top of the “Horror” and “New and Noteworthy” charts. There will be a wide release for DVD on November 24, 2015.
In addition Leomark are co-founders of MovieMaze Ltd., an interactive movie company with several films. The first being The Mechanic and the second, The Plumber. Both are available worldwide for iOS and android devices and can be downloaded from iTunesor Google play links. The next in this series is an interactive horror title called The Babysitter.
Recently, they took on the first time Irish filmmaker – Paul MaCardle – who wrote and produced The Burning of Wild Goose Lodge – a true story from County Louth, East Ireland. The movie comes out on the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
This is Leomark’s fifth market as exhibitors, and they are selling extremely well. Always looking for new ways to distribute and monetize content, they have joined up with technology company SWIG Media, which has developed new 4K streaming technology for films. Leomark has become SWIG’s first content partner, and will use SWIG products to expand their distribution options for independent filmmakers, particularly those with niche content. deliver content directly to VOD audiences. So besides production and post they also distribute now.
Maria notes to filmmakers they have to “Find your audience. Use your network and relationships to make people aware of your film, even if the distributor says they will do it for you. You are the face of your film.”
So many films; so little time. This was only a small sampling of the folks at this year’s AFM. If you have a film to sell for next year, all the folks suggested that you pay strict attention to the market and whom you are marketing to as well as your budgets and how you can appear on several different platforms at once.