Dealmakers discuss their AFM strategies



Company: Madman Films
Contact: Nick Batzias, licensing and business development manager
Update: Australian independent distributor Madman Entertainment has a small but growing share of the local market, thanks in part to the success in 2006 of a portable toilet contractor named Kenny. Madman's share of the theatrical market here sits at around 1%, or 3.2% of the independent specialist market, while its DVD releases account for 5% of the home entertainment market. Those figures inflated in 2006 when the company took a punt on releasing "Kenny," and the mockumentary became a breakout hit, both critically and commercially. It has continued to swell Madman's coffers, this year becoming one of the top three highest-selling Australian DVD titles of all time. Aside from Kenny's success, Madman releases in 2007 have included the anthology film "Paris, je t'aime," Australian director Matt Saville's debut feature, "Noise," and writer-director Shane Meadows' "This Is England," all of which have enjoyed good boxoffice success. "Paris, je t'aime," for example, is the second-highest-grossing French film in Australia this year after "La Vie en Rose," taking in more than AUS$1.5 million ($1.34 million).
Market Goal: While Madman principal Paul Wiegard has attended AFM for many years, this year the company will be represented by an AFM first-timer, licensing and business development manager Nick Batzias, who is more frequently seen at Sundance, the Festival de Cannes and the MIP TV markets. "Our intention at AFM is to look for both completed films and projects in development that can work for us either across all rights or just home video/TV and other ancillaries," Biatzis says. "It is an ideal market to reflect on 2007's output and look towards what is coming up in 2008. Whilst we have a strong slate both theatrically and across other rights for 2008, we can always find room for films with which we connect."
-- Pip Bulbeck


Company: Seville Entertainment
Contact: John Hamilton, co-president
Update: Seville Entertainment, with offices in Montreal and Toronto, was acquired by North American home entertainment distributor Entertainment One in August to kick-start its Canadian theatrical releasing business. Hamilton and David Reckziegel, who co-founded Seville in 1999, remain at the helm as co-presidents, part of Entertainment One's new filmed entertainment division run by Patrice Theroux. Seville currently releases around 30 titles in Canada each year, and another five to 10 titles internationally. Its Canadian distribution library stands at around 500 titles, with Seville holding worldwide rights for another 100 titles. Subsidiaries for the film producer, distributor and international sales agent include Seville Pictures Inc., Seville Productions Inc. and Malofilm Productions Inc. Recent boxoffice successes in the last 12 months include Roger Spottiswoode's "Shake Hands With the Devil," Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris," Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" and the feature documentary "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey." Clement Virgo's "Poor Boy's Game," starring Danny Glover, Chaz Thorne's "Just Buried" and Richie Mehta's "Amal" make up part of Seville's upcoming slate.
Market Goal: "AFM has always been a great market for Seville. We have picked up some of our most successful titles in Santa Monica," says Hamilton. "Working alongside our sister company, Contender Entertainment Group, we will be looking to acquire rights for both Canada and the U.K. It is also a key market for our international sales division, and with our upcoming slate on offer, we are looking forward to another great market this year."
-- Etan Vlessing


Company: La Fabrique de Films
Contact: Verane Frediani, co-president and managing director
Update: La Fabrique de Films -- which means, appropriately enough, "The Film Factory," -- has been pumping out urban, edgy films in Gaul for the past four years. La Fabrique's eclectic titles range from emotional films such as the potpourri of love stories "Paris je t'aime" or the tearjerker "Away From Her" to more urban, hip titles like the krumping documentary "Rize" or the recently released Joy Division musical biopic, "Control." "We love launching and/or expanding new trends like we did with 'Rize' and, more recently, with 'Control.' In that field, we are kind of unique in France," Frediani says. The 12-strong team handles all theatrical, video, TV and VOD rights for the six to 10 features a year they release both in theaters and direct-to-video. Upcoming releases in the territory include the thriller "The Oxford Murders" and dancing dramedy "Razzle Dazzle." "The films we are looking for need to be urban and connected to the society we live in," adds Frediani. "A film needs to be entertaining and clever." Founded in 2003 by Frediani and Franck Ribiere, La Fabrique's team is "young, innovative, full of energy and connected with today's audience."
Market Goal: After falling in love with Julian Jarrold's romance "Becoming Jane" at last year's AFM, which the company released in France in mid-October, La Fabrique de Films is ready for action at this year's market. "French distributors in general are now in no rush to buy anything because there are already too many films released each year in France and prices for the French territory are still too high compared to the size of our market. But we are all ready to discuss, watch, read and meet!" Frediani says, adding that AFM is "where you need to meet people and learn about new projects and new scripts."
-- Rebecca Leffler


Company: MovieMax
Contact: Guglielmo Marchetti, general manager
Update: MovieMax is one of the rising stars of Italy's film distribution business, reaching ninth place among Italian distributors last year, with a chance to move higher by the close of 2007, an end of a two-year period general manager Guglielmo Marchetti says has been "extraordinary." This will be the company's sixth year at AFM, and it is doing most of its shopping for 2009. Most of the company's 15 films slated for this year have already opened -- the one exception being George Hickenlooper's "Factory Girl," which is set to open in Italy in November -- and 2008's 13-film schedule is almost full, with perhaps one or two holes to fill. All in all, Marchetti says the Italian market is getting stronger. "In Italy, the summer used to be a completely dead period," he says. "But now the summer is starting later and finishing sooner and distributors are taking chances and releasing some blockbusters during the summer, and the results are good. That's where a lot of the growth is coming from."
Market Goal: Marchetti and three MovieMax associates at AFM will be looking for medium-budget films they believe will resonate in the Italian market. "We don't want more than 15 or so films a year, because the way we look at films, they are like kids," Marchetti says. "You have to raise them carefully, and they need your attention. We want to release films in Italy under the best possible circumstances for those films."
    -- Eric J. Lyman


Company: DeaPlaneta
Contact: Yolanda del Val, director of acquisitions
Update: In March 2006, Josep Escola took over as general manager, replacing Alvaro Zapata. One of Spain's top independent distributors, the company has revamped its acquisitons policy. According to Del Val, DeaPlaneta is focusing on "bigger titles with A-level casts, big budgets and strong directors." The company belongs to Spain's Grupo Planeta and Italy's DeAgostini. Rampant pirating and Internet downloads have seriously affected Spanish distribution. Boxoffice attendance has dropped, with attendance figures as of Oct. 1 at 76 million -- compared to year-end 2006 figures of some 122 million ticket sales. Spain's leading exhibition chain, Abaco, recently declared Chapter 11 -- a sign of the ailing sector's difficulties. Even so, big U.S. fare like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Spider-Man 3" set opening-weekend records and generally performed well, while homegrown product flagged and saw its market share drop to 7.4% as of September from 8.7% for the same period last year.
Market Goal: "The company is among the top of the independents, and the acquisitions policy has changed," Del Val points out. "(At this AFM, we're looking for) big product for 2009 and a couple of titles for 2008."
    -- Pam Rofle


Company: Target Entertainment
Contact: Chris Rayson, director of international DVD and theatrical
Update: U.K. independent television sales, production and DVD releasing company Target is hoping to hit the bull's-eye with a move into film production and distribution. It has been a presence this year at film shindigs from the Festival de Cannes to the Toronto Film Festival and Dinard Film Festival to boost its ambitions. But AFM will be the first full-blown market the ambitious outfit has traveled to with a buyer's hat on. Target has struck a brace of deals to help fuel its movie ambitions, striking a three-picture deal with Medb Films (pronounced "maeve") and a joint venture with Pink Sands. Through its deal with Medb Films, Target has "Ruby Blue," starring Bob Hoskins, in the can, the Brenda Blethyn starrer "The Calling" in preproduction and a "bigger budget" romantic comedy in development, according to Rayson. Pink Sands is the film production label set up by former William Morris highflier Charles Finch and ex-New Line exec Kate McCreery. The company plans to "get involved" with projects with budgets from £500,000 ($1 million) to £1.5 million ($3 million), and Rayson says Target is coming to the movie market from a "slightly different" angle, having taken 10 years to establish itself as a TV player. The company is also setting up a theatrical releasing arm and, in the immediate term, will likely partner with existing U.K. distribution players on a film-by-film basis to physically put movies in theaters on a fee-based deal.
Market goal: Target Entertainment will be at AFM as a seller, but Rayson is charged with sourcing movie projects -- at script stage or finished -- to strike U.K. rights deals for. "We will be looking at things from a television perspective and using our experience and knowledge of that to decide whether or not the project has the potential for theatrical," Rayson says. "We will look at each opportunity on a project-by-project basis and decide what road to go down."
—    Stuart Kemp