American Film Market opens for shoppers of film and TV

Inside the 38th annual American Film Market

Inside the 38th annual American Film Market

It’s where dreams are born and the flames of hope are fanned as filmmakers, distributors, writers, producers, actors and actresses descend upon the Santa Monica Loews for the 38th annual American Film Market.

Cannes might be the better-known film market, but the AFM is an absolute must-attend event in the industry. If you want to make connections or ahem, sell your film, this is the place to be.

It’s a week-long event where you can find Ultra-Man (my childhood after school superhero show) being rebooted in Japan. And where George Clooney was able to line up financing for The Ides of March and where Quentin Tarantino got the ball rolling for The Hateful Eight.

The draw and possibilities of the market are why a gaggle of Chicagoans make the trek every November. It may have something to do with the oncoming freeze, but hey it’s colder here at 68-degrees.

But while there is doe-eyed optimism, there is also an air of trepidation as the indie film market faces some of its toughest questions in recent memory.

First, the domestic box office. It stunk worse than a skunk in heat. I’m not exactly sure what that smells like, but the idea of it did make me cringe. Right now, the B.O. is looking at lagging revenues. How much? Five percent according to The Hollywood Reporter.

While many this year have blamed critic aggregate Rotten Tomato for the sagging ticket sales, the fact is that many of those poor scores were deserved as the films were just bad. Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, Geostorm. Need I go on? I can.

The fact is the major studios became so focused on tentpole, universe building and lucrative foreign markets, that they left making a great off the table.

Then there will be the elephant in the room. And I do mean elephant in the form of Harvey Weinstein.

The sexual harassment scandals that are permeating our daily news will most certainly dominate the talk of sunset cocktails among producers and distributors.

There are serious questions about what will happen to The Weinstein Company and how will it affect indie film. To many the brand is currently like drinking wine laced with arsenic.

The indie film industry, which is so critical for Chicago filmmakers, still has to come to terms with the ways Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms have eviscerated the home video market.

I don’t want to be “Shleprock” and stand outside the Loews with my “End is Coming” picket sign, but these are just some of the realities facing the indie market as they put up their best sales pitches to sell their films. And in some cases, finding new ways of financing films through Bitcoin-like investments.

That said, things are looking up for the AFM, which has experienced a softer decline in recent years. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, market director Johnathan Wolf, says he sees signs of a rebound as dealmakers adjust to a new normal in which the “middle ground” film — the $3 million to $7 million production — has dropped out, but there’s money to be made with the $30 million-plus star-backed projects.

And I’ll be here to cover those projects and any others. From Chicago to Thailand, Reel Chicago will bring you helpful news and conversations with the world’s best producers and distributors will greenlight and finance hundreds of films – many destined to stick in our minds forever. People who will set creative standards for an entirely new generation. If you’re not able to be among those here, we will do our best to make you feel like you are a part.

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.