Looking for value for money, many foreign buyers are gravitating toward theatrical films with production costs in the mid- to low-budget range, even if those films lack impressive star power.
While local distribs still have a tough time selling indie films on to territorial broadcasters, the growing DVD market is making up for some of the shortfall.
Following are some pic categories that industryites say yield value for AFM shoppers:
- Documentaries remain red hot in the wake of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Super Size Me.”
Among the docs receiving praise at recent fests were “Year of the Yao,” about Chinese basket ball phenom Yao Ming, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq fly-on-the-wall “Gunner Palace.” Films sold, respectively, to Fine Line and Palm Pictures at Toronto.
If John Kerry wins the presidency — the election is the day before AFM starts — look for his Vietnam bio “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry” to get a boost. Films Transit reps foreign rights.
- Vidgame adaptations are gaining traction; they have a built-in audience and strong afterlife on video. Focus Features is selling “Silent Hill” with Davis Film’s Samuel Hadida producing from the hit game, which has sold 4 million copies. Focus is also handling international sales on “Onimusha,” a vidgame adaptation produced by Hadida with Gaga Communications.
Crystal Sky has classic arcade game “Tekken” on offer.
- Quality dramas usually sell at the right price.
Pic consultant Bob Meyers of Meyers Film Entertainment notes that with modest production costs “you still can get a quality movie if there’s a good director that shows creativity.”
Arclight’s melting pot drama “Crash,” recently snapped up at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival for domestic distribution by Lions Gate, was made for a price but boasts high production values and an ensemble cast that includes B.O. draws like Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock.
Among the offerings at AFM, Hanway’s selling Terry Gilliam’s next pic, “Tideway,” as well as Woody Allen’s next project. HBO London has Gus Van Sant’s “Last Days” and the untitled movie from red-hot group OutKast. Intandem has Stephen Woolley’s Brian Jones project.
Bristol Media Intl. is repping Greek helmer Pantelis Voulgaris’ romantic drama “Brides,” which bowed at Toronto; as well as Eric Schaeffer’s “Mind the Gap,” which unspooled at the South by Southwest film fest earlier this year.
- Action adventure, such as Arclight’s “Beowulf & Grendel,” is still a strong overseas draw.
“It remains a genre that works,” says David Garber, Lantern Lane Entertainment, a U.S. sales rep and consulting firm. “Producers in the U.S. can use recognizable stars and deliver films efficiently priced for overseas buyers.”
- Family films are hot sellers because picky free TV channels jump for them, adds Garber.
Films on offer at AFM include Seven Arts Intl.’s “Red Riding Hood,” a live-action musical version of the fairy tale that Fox will release Stateside; Odyssey Entertainment’s “Lassie”; and MarVista’s “Spirit Bear,” an eco-friendly family pic starring Ed Begley Jr.
Keystone Intl. continues with its successful “Air Bud” series and has “Spymate,” about a chimp James Bond.
Animation produced overseas, such as Telepool’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouseking” and Filmax’s “Donkey Xote” also are on offer at the market.
- Horror is achieving a steady comeback after oblivion in the 1990s. Though traditional horror genre fare will work with some elements of pizzazz and recognizable talent, it’s the titles with a twist on the genre — subtle chillers such as “Open Water” and comedic entries such as “Shaun of the Dead” — that are making a B.O. splash of late.
“Horror always travels well and it’s good for video,” says Lucie Salhany, managing partner of Echo Bridge Entertainment. Her company is making $3 million “Mortuary” from director Tobe Hooper.
Cinemavault Releasing Intl. recently picked up several films that will be showing at AFM, including a British teen horror pic “Spirit Trap,” with a cast that includes Luke Mably, and Irish horror title “Dead Meat.”
- Gay-themed programming is becoming more popular, as taboos disappear and audience support grows. “We’re on the dawn of a new niche,” says Jeff Schenck, Regent Entertainment COO. “It’s on people’s radar, but it still can be difficult to sell internationally in some territories.”
To give buyers an option, Regent’s holiday pic “Too Cool for Christmas,” is available in two versions: One in which the teenage protagonist’s parents are a gay male couple and another in which the teen’s parents are a traditional mom-and-dad pair.