AFM Update: Whither the People?

Sales agents say there are lots of nibbles, but few bites this year.

Last Updated: November 9, 2009 @ 3:54 PM

If the producers of the American Film Market are correct, there are more buyers in Santa Monica this year. The halls of the two beachfront hotels where the bazaar is being held, however, tell another story. They are, as more than one film executive here noted, conspicuously easy to pass through.

"It struck me that the crowds look thinner," said Mark Burton, president of production at IndieVest. "Fewer people doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t business being done, though."

Burton has come to the market  to screen  "Saint John of Las Vegas," a buddy comedy starring Steve Buscemi and Sarah Silverman.

To be sure, some deals, mainly for properties involving bigger names like Robert Pattinson and "The Vampire Diaries" star Ian Somerhalder, have been hammered out during the market, but negotiations seem to be moving at a more deliberate pace.

"Cannes seemed slower," said Claudia Rosler, a sales agent for North by Northwest. "People there weren’t willing to close a deal at the market. Here I’ve had a lot of meetings. More people are interested in our older properties, probably because there are fewer products than last year."

Still, meetings do not necessarily bring signatures on the dotted line. As one producer told TheWrap, "Well, it’s certainly busy as far as my diary is concerned, but until they see our films … who knows?"

The same fears about buyers’ liquidity that dominated AFM last year and cast a pallor over Cannes and other markets persists, sales agents said.

The buyers themselves are also more wary about what properties they bet on.

"They seem more cautious," said Nicole Jelovic, manager of international motion picture sales for PeaceArch Entertainment. "Buyers really want to be sure they’re picking the right properties these days."