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AFM to autumn with AFI Film Fest

Market hopes to avoid crowded awards season

Starting next year, the American Film Market will move to November and join forces with the AFI Film Festival.

This means indie players will attend the AFM twice in 2004. In addition to its late winter slot of Feb. 25 – March 3, it will run Nov. 3-10.

By pushing its dates to November, AFM dodges the chaos of a compacted awards season. Aligning with a film festival could also enhance the AFM’s position on the crowded indie circuit.

The fall dates coincide with the 2004 edition of the AFI fest, which unspools Nov. 4-14.

Beyond 2004, the AFM will be held Nov. 2-9 in 2005 and Nov. 1-8 in 2006.

According to AFMA’s announcement, each event will continue to be managed separately, but “the collaboration will result in a unified market and festival.”

However, none of this can be good news for Mifed, the Milan film market traditionally skedded for the first week of November.

AFMA prexy and CEO Jean Prewitt says the AFM date change has nothing to do with Mifed. It is, she said, simply what’s best for AFM.

“We looked at what date worked the best for our event,” Prewitt told DailyVariety. “We aren’t looking at other competitive events.”

Awards-driven

Prewitt said AFMA’s decision was influenced by the prevalence of award-seeking films that bow in the fall.

“We want to screen new product in full view of the industry press,” she said. “It’s a better platform for those production companies, when the world media is in Hollywood.”

Prewitt’s position suggests a more public profile for the AFM. However, the market hasn’t previously courted the consumer press.

While the AFM helps distribute the world’s most popular form of entertainment, it’s a convention that’s not open to the public. And the AFM doesn’t permit its films to be reviewed.

Complementary events

According to AFMA executive VP and AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf, that’s where the AFI comes in. He says the two events will complement each other, even with 15 miles of Los Angeles traffic between them.

“It’s commerce at the beach during the day, celebration of Hollywood at night,” he said. “We want to build other events around the AFM (for the press). It will build more value and interest.”

AFM attendees will most likely see value in having to attend one less market. Many AFMA members have been vocal in their desire to cut costs by trimming the indie circuit. The first event to go was the London Screenings, boycotted by major sales companies last year.

However, whereas London Screenings was killed by its creators, Mifed may not go down as easily.

While Mifed has been criticized in the past for poor organization and a sluggish pace, the 70-year-old Milan market showed renewed signs of life last fall.

Market director Elena Lloyd even pledged to extend the event from five days to six in 2003, in response to demand from sellers for more screening time.

Mifed’s might

Many American buyers and sellers wouldn’t mind seeing Mifed fade away. However, European players who would just as soon not be obliged to schlep to Santa Monica in order to sell their wares could throw their weight behind Mifed.

“If Mifed decides to take a stand, it’s going to create a real problem for buyers and sellers,” said Peter Belsito, who, with Sydney Levine, runs Los Angeles-based consulting and film tracking service Film Finders. “They are going to have to choose.”

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