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AFM: Arclight’s Gary Hamilton Dives Into Market

Gary Hamilton, chairman of sales and production outfit Arclight Films, discusses his company’s structure and the indie film market at the American Film Market.

What sets Arclight apart from other sales companies? What defines it?

From our perspective we are as much a production company as we are a sales company. Our focus is very much on development and production. Everything is driven by sales so we don’t handle movies we don’t produce. I guess another thing that makes us different is our focus on China and Chinese co-productions. At least half the movies we are doing, the two in post at the moment, “Guardians of the Tomb” and “Triple Threat,” are both Chinese co-productions. Not too many other companies would have two co-productions in China. Maybe Chinese companies, but their films would be in Mandarin while ours are in English. That sets us apart from most.

What’s the thinking behind having three labels, Arclight, Eastern Light and Darklight?

We don’t use the labels as much as we used to. When we were focusing more on sales, we used to handle more films. The difference is that now we are focusing on selling the movies we are producing, while doing less films. The brands are still there on appropriate films. Easternlight is for Chinese films, Darklight is for horror and more edgy thrillers and Arclight is everything else.

In your view, what do independent distributors look for when acquiring films?

I think they are looking for movies with guaranteed theatrical in the U.S., and films they can promote themselves in their own territory regardless of what the angle is. In the case of a movie like “Triple Threat,” we already had U.S. distribution set up with WellGo USA, and they have committed to release the film theatrically. So I think they are looking for release plans in the U.S., but also our Asian buyers are looking more and more at China, and the influence it has on the Asian region.

Arclight is 15 years old. How has the independent market changed in that time?

When we started the company it was much easier. There was a DVD market, which was developed, and has now essentially completely disappeared. There is VOD but that is driven much by theatrical success. What has happened is that a theatrical release, or films with a theatrical element, is probably one of the most important things people are looking for.

What challenges and opportunities does the independent market face now?

The opportunities are really in China for us. Although, we see tightening up of different rules in China, I don’t think it really affects us so much because we are focusing on Chinese co-productions, so when our films qualify as Chinese films there is no real issue there.

What are the highlights of your AFM slate?

We have a fantastic new big-budget adventure film, “Killer 10,” which is one of our own productions, with Phillip Noyce directing. With an incredible script by Paul Staheli and Justin Monjo and casting under way for U.S., Australian and Chinese actors, it is one of the most exciting projects Arclight has been involved in to date. We also have an exciting completed Chinese action film titled “Out of Control,” and the Heather Graham-directed comedy “Half Magic,” which we are launching at AFM and screening for buyers at the market.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of AFM as a market?

The strength of AFM is that it doesn’t have the “distraction” of a festival so the focus is more on business. Buyers come to engage and buy and that is a great thing if you have the right films. Any weakness is in the market as a whole and that brings me back to the product. If you have the right films, any market is strong.

Which is your favorite restaurant in Santa Monica?

Herringbone on Ocean. I end up eating there twice a day during AFM.

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