AFM panel focuses on distribution

Industry vets talk about commercial impact

The AFM kicked off on a dramatic note Wednesday with its first panel, “U.S. Theatrical Distribution: The Producer’s Holy Grail.”

“We’re talking about Holy Grail, but it can also be damnation,” said Peter Block, Lionsgate’s prexy of acquisitions and co-productions. “You can lose your reputation and a lot of money.”

The eclectic mix of personalities on the panel — which included Block; moderator John Alan Simon; Phil Alberstat, agent at William Morris Independent; Seth Willenson, marketing and distributing consultant; Daniel Myrick, helmer and prexy of Gearhead Pictures; and producer Dale Rosenbloom — made for an animated debate focusing on how to make good films that can actually sell and perform well at the B.O.

Myrick shared his optimistic outlook on the movie business from a filmmaker’s perspective, which he admitted was “hopelessly optimistic.”

“A film has to lose me emotionally. It can get clouded by all the business talks but unless it moves you … why are we making movies at all?

Block had an answer. “It’s great to have a passion project but that’s a second step,” said the prexy. “The first logical step is to evaluate the commercial impact of the film and sometimes you don’t have to have a great film; if it can get people in theaters the first week, it’s commercially viable.”

Block also argued that the indie boom in recent years has oversaturated the film market.

“I want to be in a business where good movies can be made but there are fewer slots for that,” said Block. “Too many independent films are killing independent filmmaking. They’re cannibalizing themselves.”

The same phenomenon is happening with the oversaturation of the media, as the Internet has become so pervasive that it has diluted marketing strategies aimed at targeting niche audiences, Willenson said.

“You have to focus on reach and frequency” when marketing your film, he said. “There is so much media out there that you lose track of your audience.”

But having a well-thought-out pitch and budget is what gets your foot in the door, Alberstat said.

“You need to be able to tell me your film is about x, y and z … and you need to have your script budgeted by a line producer,” said Alberstat. “And if you have the money, we’ll pay attention. Our job is to make our clients work.”

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