The 26th edition of the American Film Market in Santa Monica last November, which ran concurrently with the AFI film festival, continued its trend of blurring the line between below-the-line “crew” and above-the-line “creative.”The event, which clocked-in a record 419 companies from 33 countries, drew increasing numbers of makers of independent films in addition to buyers and sellers, noted Independent Film and Television Alliance president Jean Prewitt.“The AFM/AFI match-up is one more example where traditional high-concept distributors are embracing story-driven productions coming out of the indie arena,” observed producer and former cameraman Scott Bayer.Indeed, this year’s buzzworthy documentaries include a number of projects from filmmakers with little or no above-the-line experience. Among them: Armor Clad Warriors, Answering the Call (Volunteers of 911) and Houdini—three films spearheaded, respectively, by cinematographer F. Sean Fairburn, editor Gene Gamache and camera operator Lou Angeli.Said Egidio Coccimiglio, director/writer of Black Madonna and Imaginary Grace, “Given the evolving landscape of filmmaking and its growing complexities, technology and those who harness it may be the new auteurs.” But he allowed that “the director will continue to be the architect of the creative process in possession of the final word.”One way production entrepreneurs are getting their endeavors greenlit is by escaping the pressure cooker of Hollywood altogether and exploring roads less traveled. Their success is often predicated on not competing with Hollywood, but on adhering to another business model and treating the whole world as their backlot.Producer John Daly—whose credits include The Last Emperor, Platoon and Terminator—had his most recent outing, The Aryan Couple, produced in Poland by F.A.M.E. (Film And Music Entertainment). Starring Martin Landau as a Jewish industrialist trapped behind enemy lines, the film is typical of the compelling stories made these days on slim budgets.Distributors and sales agents are getting into deals earlier then ever, often negotiating with independent producers at the development stage rather than when a production is wrapped and in the can.A case in point: Mohamed Hassan brought his Death in Darfur to buyers and sellers at AFM last year, calling attention to the genocide rolling through his native Sudan. He was back at AFM this year with a new work in progress and was able to get commitments from Aion Films and Solid Entertainment.Another project that gained momentum is Los Tangueros, a feature set in pre-World War II Buenos Aires by Matteo Horton, a cinematographer and fashion photographer turned director. “Offers to co-finance and a request for first rights have come into play on the merit of the Tango story and South American setting alone,” said line producer Joe De Maio. “A high-quality movie in English with a Latin background makes sense in today’s market.”It’s a market that can be characterized as a time of prosperity for a few and the dream of a better future for many.
Written by Cristiane Roget