AFI: A fest too far

Events in Santa Monica, H'wood keep buyers busy

Long-distance relationships are hard — that’s how most AFM attendees are experiencing the association between AFM and AFI Fest, now entering its third year.

No one is disputing that both events are successful, or meaningful, for their core demographics.

But there’s still a gaping divide between the two, based mostly on their locales: AFM sits in sandy Santa Monica, while its fest component, AFI, chills in glittery Hollywood 15 miles away.

Each AFM buyer seems to have a prepared quip to describe the arduous task of traveling from one event to another.

“There’s one way the two events can get closer,” said one distribution exec in the Loews lobby Saturday. “They can build a tunnel between Santa Monica and Hollywood!”

“They could start helicopter service,” added another, saying he was once late to his own film’s preem after trying to race from an AFM meeting to an AFI screening.

“It’s like the New York Film Festival having a market in New Jersey,” chimed in another.

“It works better in theory than in practice,” said ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman, whose company had acquired pics out of both AFM and AFI. “It can take upwards of 90 minutes to get between the two, and that’s too long.

“It’s very hard to take optimum advantage of both. The first year, I was excited, but then the first time I had to go, it took 90 minutes.”

AFM and AFI have tried to accommodate their members, providing a shuttle service between the two events that runs till 1 a.m.

Both orgs point out that most of the market takes place during the day, while the film fest, headquartered at the ArcLight, unfolds at night.

However, AFI’s red-carpet screenings can kick off at 6 p.m., making the jaunt from Santa Monica a rush-hour adventure.

As a result, most distrib units say that they’ll split up to cover screenings in both locations.

There has also been little in common commerce-wise between the two events, as buyers prefer to stay on the Westside, leaving the fest to the Film Comment crowds.

But then again, one of AFM’s most interesting deals this year came out of AFI and was announced at AFM.

Joe Dante and Elizabeth Stanley said they’ll team to produce an English-language remake of Gallic pic “Ecoute le temps” (“Fissures”), which world preems at AFI today.

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