AFMA braces for change

American Film Marketing Assn. members will get a chance to vote next spring on a wide variety of proposed strategic changes in the org, including ways to boost membership and to tailor the structure and fees more to individual members’ needs.

Concern over members’ “misperception” of the anticipated structural and procedural changes, prompted AFMA brass yesterday to disclose aspects of the plan.

Proposed changes include increasing membership via other entertainment-related businesses, revamping the governance structure and adding more directors. Strategy also seeks to develop other revenue-generating prospects and to adapt fees to cover services members really want.

AFMA chairman and chief executive Michael Goldman said the association’s board will vote on the strategic plan commissioned last summer. AFMA members will vote on it at the close of the American Film Market in the spring.

“We’ve been in this process now for five or six months and it’s nearing its final form. But I’ve had some real concern that information was leaking out in the wrong way and members were becoming upset,” said Goldman.

He acknowledged rumblings among members about dissatisfaction with the association, heightened by the “misperception” that the study was commissioned by AFMA to resolve that dissatisfaction.

“There are no problems with the association. What we are looking for is a way for this organization to grow with its market. And that’s it,” said Goldman. “The reason for expanding membership is not just to raise money but to bring in other aspects of the industry. Our core membership has been people who sold English-language theatrical film overseas.”

New strategy would include enticing not only more film companies, but lawyers , TV sales agents, international syndicators, talent agencies and accounting firms, to name a few.

To generate revenues outside of membership fees, AFMA may consider various ways to merchandise its logo.

Another option is to vary the fee structure.

It costs a company $ 10,000 for a one-time initiation fee, plus a $ 3,000 annual fee. That fee, which has been the same for six years, buys all AFMA services–services that all members don’t necessarily want.

“When you have 106 companies that range from a three-man organization to companies the size of Rank Labs or Turner, their needs are substantially different,” he said. “Some just pay the huge fee just to come to the market. Others use all of the services. And some don’t like all the services.”

One service that has been an item of much dispute among some members in the past is AFMA’s arbitration service. Sources say some members find it an effectual tool available only to unidentified, bigger members.

Goldman is aware of that dissatisfaction.

The way the service works is that both the AFMA member and the company that’s buying its product sign an AFMA arbitration contract should a dispute arise over the agreement. If it does, an AFMA arbitrator steps in to help process and expedite the solution.

One change in the strategy would allow members to forgo that arbitration aspect.

“One option is to have members pay for that service separately. It’s a way to unbundle our services,” he said, discounting any perception that it’s merely a way for AFMA to get more money out of its members.

Another part of the strategy is to consider reducing the number of board directors. The board currently has 27 directors.

“We had also heard concerns from people that we are changing the name of our organization,” added Goldman. “We may have an international umbrella to handle different aspects of business, or it could be a subsidiary of AFMA. This whole thing is a work in progress.

“And that is precisely why I decided to give people an idea what’s going on now. Just a work in progress.”

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