For the independent film industry — the motley crew of producers, financiers, sales agents and international distributors that descend on Santa Monica in early November for the American Film Market — it is the best of times and the worst of times.
There's arguably never been more money sloshing around the entertainment industry. New deep-pocketed SVOD services — Disney+, Apple TV+ and WarnerMedia's HBO Max, among them — have entered the market alongside established big spenders Netflix and Amazon. And a recent report by Ampere Analysis found global TV spend on content — including films — has exploded, growing nearly $50 billion in the past five years alone. But the traditional theatrical business, particularly in North America, is under pressure. Whatever you think of Martin Scorsese's rant against superhero flicks, it's a fact that studio blockbusters are squeezing independent movies out of cinemas.
"I see a lot of opportunities, but there are not that many truly theatrical movies out there that are available," says veteran sales agent Brian O'Shea, of international sales company The Exchange. "And the price point, if you don't have a theatrical release, is going lower and lower, to the point that there's no financial benefit in even bringing it to market."
But for the few films that do break through and secure global distribution deals at AFM, the financial rewards may be bigger than ever. Here are THR's picks of the cream of this year's crop.