Buyers buzz about 'Rush,' 'Blood,' 'Words'

The arrival of Daylight Savings Time this morning, bringing an extra hour to the day, could not have come at a better time for buyers and sellers with the American Film Market at its midpoint.

“We’re trying to cram as much as possible into the next few days before we leave town,” said Christopher Woodrow, topper of New York-based financer Worldview Entertainment. He estimated that he’ll have done about 90 meetings in four days before departing Tuesday.

“I’m so glad that we get the extra hour because I will use it get some badly needed sleep,” noted Sierra/Affinity CEO Nick Meyer. “Right now, the demand is so strong for good product and it’s very competitive.”

Though buyers have held off on making announcements during the first four days, many say that plenty of deals are in the works, adding that they’ve been as active as they were during the Cannes Film Festival. The common theme that emerges — recognizable casts are what comfort buyers, more than any other factor.

So the solid level of transactions already underway is a promising sign for the market. Some of the key deals so far include:

Parlay Films saw solid sales for its literary drama “The Words” and financial thriller “Arbitrage” with sales to most European markets.

“The business has been on an upswing since Cannes, but you have to have films that respond to the market conditions,” said Parlay Films’ Lisa Wilson.

• Exclusive Media began drawing major interest in racing drama “Rush,” bringing in Ron Howard on the first day to meet with buyers. “It’s fantastic to have someone of Ron’s caliber here after we announced this in Toronto,” said Exclusive Media sales prexy Alex Walton. “That’s something that really impressed buyers from Europe and Asia.”

• Stuart Ford’s IM Global announced a quartet of projects. It’s financing Jason Statham’s actioner “Hummingbird” and “Dead Man Down,” starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace; co-financing dramatic thriller “Blood,” starring Paul Bettany, Brian Cox and Stephen Graham; and coming on to sell Vertigo Films’ 3D musical “Walking on Sunshine”

• FilmNation Entertainment has sold the majority of international territories on Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike,” which recently wrapped production.

• Hannibal Classics set Michael Katleman to direct the action film “Red Squad” with production slated to begin in the first quarter.

• Endgame Entertainment announced an ambitious P&A funding plan.

“Financing is not easy to get these days — but it’s not impossible,” said CineTel chief Paul Hertzberg, newly tapped as chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance.

Hertzberg said business at AFM has been solidly consistent so far.

Hertzberg also gave props to indie players like Summit and Nu Image/Millennium topper Avi Lerner, for stepping up as the financial crisis eased. He asserted that the indie sector’s been adept at developing titles with the key elements — recognizable stars and themes.

“People want our movies,” he declared of the CineTel titles. “We’ve been in business for 31 years so we tend to be cautious even if that limits our upside.”

Indomina Group, which set up an in-house international sales division during Cannes, made a splash at its first AFM with Melissa Leo and Hayden Panettiere joining Nick Stahl and Freddy Rodriguez in dramatic thriller “Over the Wall.” Panettiere and Rodriguez met with buyers on Thursday at an Indomina event.

“Getting the cast out there like we did shows that we’re competitive in that space,” said VP of international sales Catherine Quantschnigg.

“And people need product now so we’re getting an excellent response so far,” noted Indomina consultant Carole Siller.

Lightning Entertainment held a Saturday event with Stephen Dorff for “Brake” as the action star — portraying a Secret Service agent in the pic — pressed the flesh with about 150 buyers at the Viceroy.

“It’s really important to show the buyers that Lightning and Stephen are behind this film,” said Lightning prexy Robert Beaumont. “I think it’s strong enough even without Stephen there to sell, but having him there really makes buyers remember it.”

Maya Entertainment, which began a foreign sales business four years ago, came to AFM with a dozen titles. It snapped up domestic rights to action-thriller “La hora cero,” the highest grossing local film in Venezuelan history.

Elias Axume, Maya’s prexy of international distribution, noted that “Hora” is a bit of a gamble because the cast isn’t well-known — usually a tough sell.

“The market’s become very selective,” he said. “You can still sell DVDs in Australia, Germany and the U.K. But the key is having the right cast.”

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