AFM: Five Surprising Lessons

Barry King/FilmMagic
Pierce Brosnan will appear in six pictures that were for sale at AFM.

UPDATED: What do Pierce Brosnan, Nancy Meyers and extreme sports have in common? They all made unexpected headlines during a market insiders say is more competitive than ever.

The 2013 edition of the American Film Market was marked by extremes -- and worry. Buyers lamented that there weren’t enough high-profile projects to pluck from. Sellers didn’t even try to deny it, saying the global film business is tougher than ever. One veteran international sales agent used darts as an analogy, saying these days you have to hit the bullseye. “If you don’t, you’re out of the game entirely,” he said. As AFM attendees pack up and head for points around the globe (even if that just means their Los Angeles homes), here are five lessons to mull over:

1) A High-Concept Is Worth Its Weight in Gold
By far the major success story of AFM was Alcon Entertainment’s $100 million Point Break reboot, which sold out around the world despite having no cast. The project was the talk of the market and a stunning success for Patrick Wachsberger’s Lionsgate, which is handling the movie internationally for Alcon (Warner Bros. will distribute domestically). The reboot of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfer thriller will be shot around the world and will feature a myriad of extreme sports.

2) The Celebrity Pitch Is Here to Stay
More stars than ever before showed up in Santa Monica to woo foreign distributors in the hopes of raising financing for their upcoming projects. Russell Crowe pitched The Water Diviner (Mister Smith), Don Cheadle championed his Miles Davis project Kill the Trumpet Player (IM Global), while Blake Lively came to Santa Monica to tout The Age of Adaline (Lakeshore, Sierra/Affinity). Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley impressed with their presentation for Term Life (QED), an action-thriller starring Vaughn opposite Hailee Steinfeld. And AFM kicked off with Elton John and Tom Hardy hosting a posh beachside breakfast for buyers, where they crooned over Rocketman (Good Universe), the Elton John biopic starring Hardy as the iconic pop star.

3) Nancy Meyers Still Matters
Foreign distributors appeared happy to finally have a chance to work with Nancy Meyers, who until now was a studio-only director. Meyers has decided to go the indie route, with Worldview Entertainment and Lotus Entertainment coming aboard to finance The Intern, a comedy about a woman who learns a lesson from her elderly temp. Reese Witherspoon and Robert De Niro are in discussions to star. Lotus had plenty of buyers coming through its suite to check the project out (Meyers even gave a presentation).

4) Don’t Count Out Pierce Brosnan
With baby boomers driving more and more of the box office in the Western world, Pierce Brosnan could be on the verge of a comeback. Foreign buyers were impressed with a promo reel for Roger Donaldson’s The November Man, a spy thriller starring the 60-year-old actor opposite Olga Kurylenko. Brosnan had no fewer than six projects at AFM (others include The Solution’s How to Make Love Like an Englishman, Sierra/ Affinity’s The Coup and QED’s Strange But True).

5) Edgy Has Its Place
One of the more sought-after new projects was action-comedy American Ultra (FilmNation), starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. American Ultra, handled by FilmNation, follows a loser stoner whose life is upended when he becomes the target of a government operation that wants him dead. And QED also did well by cult director Takashi Miike’s crime-thriller The Outsider, starring Hardy.

Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.