"Disruption" has been the byword for the American Film Market for several years now. The global independent film industry has struggled to deal with major shocks to the system of producing and distributing indie movies, most notably the evisceration of the home video market in all but a few territories and the rise of global streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon Prime.
But AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf, who admits attendance at the market the past few years "was a little soft," 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 then there's the bottom: the $300,000 straight-to-VOD fare AFM is (in)famous for. But market regular Gabrielle Stewart of London-based HanWay Films sees new opportunities for low-budget projects, especially high-quality art house fare. "[There's] a more sophisticated audience hungry for really strong, interesting storytelling and emotionally impactful stories," she says.
Interesting stories abound on THR's AFM 2017 hot list, but their impact will be determined once buyers get a look at the scripts — and budgets — for this year's crop.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
BUZZ Now filming in Malawi, Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his directorial debut — from his own script — with this drama based on the inspiring real-life story of a young African boy who helped save his village by constructing a wind turbine. Newcomer Maxwell Simba will play the title role.
SALES Cornerstone (international), Participant (U.S.)