AFM Begins on Upbeat Note


And ... action! That's the call as the 31st American Film Market gears up Wednesday for a week or so of dealmaking between buyers and sellers from across the globe.

But the call to arms is more to do with genre rather than a typical instruction by a director signaling that the cameras are rolling.

"You don't come to AFM to sell European art house fare, it just doesn't work here," one sage seller noted. That said, many sellers will try.

A traditional and happy hunting ground for buyers looking for quality genre titles, AFM this year is full of promise, with 3D versions a hot option and plenty of action, horror and thriller titles being touted around the halls.

Whether it's Taxi Wars, a political action thriller from director Antony Hoffman that stars Forest Whitaker and Djimon Hounsou; The Warrior's Way, about ninjas taking on cowboys, with a cast topped by Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Jang Dong Gun; or Dredd, Pete Travis' 3D adaptation of the cult 2000 AD comic series, the appetite for glossy genre movies appears to have returned.

"We Distribution is expecting a very busy AFM for 'Wu Xia,'" said Katherine Lee of director-producer Peter Chan's Hong Kong-based company. "AFM is important for us because the product -- a martial arts thriller -- is right for this market. I can meet all the right buyers here."

And there are signs that the survivors arriving in Santa Monica -- battered by two years of financial turmoil, a global economic crisis and a risk-averse environment -- are at the very least hopeful of healthy business levels in the coming days.

Stewart Till, CEO of Icon U.K., thinks AFM attendees this year will be comforted in the knowledge that the appetite from consumers -- be it in theatrical ticket sales, DVD rentals or purchases or the emerging desire for VOD -- remains healthy despite the tough times.

"The absolute minimum you have to have these days is a good script, a director who knows what they are doing, and some recognizable cast for a reasonable price," Till said. "Reducing the risk you [as a distributor] is exposed to is key to any deal being done."

Organizers said that while no attendance records are likely to be broken, the levels of interest are at healthy and manageable levels.

Jonathan Wolf, AFM managing director and executive vp of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, said that there will be 427 films at the market. Of those, 43 are world premieres and 306 market premieres, and 21 will be presented in 3D. Exhibitors from 36 countries will hold more than 700 screenings.

AFM runs through Nov. 10.

Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report.