Amazon’s Film Festival Stars Program Lands at the Guadalajara Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

Initiative offers cash bonuses and royalties to fest films opting to self-distribute on Amazon Prime

San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz. Foto fija
Victor Mendiola / miro /FilmRise

Prime Video Direct (PVD), Amazon Prime’s self-service program for studios, distributors, and content creators, is taking its Film Festival Stars program (FFS) to the Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival (FICG) for the first time.

Launched at Sundance in 2017, the FFS program offers cash bonuses and royalties to festival films seeking to self-distribute on Amazon Prime. Ernesto Contreras’s lyrical “I Dream in Another Language,” which won the Audience Award at Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition that year, was among the first films to opt for the FFS program. Other titles include “Manifesto,” starring Cate Blanchett; “Marjorie Prime,” toplined by Jon Hamm and Geena Davis; and 2017 SXSW Grand Jury winner for Narrative Feature, “Most Beautiful Island.”

“In 2017, Prime Video Direct offered the FFS program at Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festivals which led to over 175 feature films opting into the FFS program,” said Eric Orme, general manager of Prime Video Direct. “We hit the ground running in 2018 with another appearance at Sundance as well as Berlin which marked our first festival outside of North America,” he said.

Guadalajara marks FFS’s first foray into Mexico and, indeed, Latin America. Dan Truong who leads the independent film program for Prime Video Direct and Lara Talamas, who focuses on PVD’s Latin American outreach, will be taking meetings between March 9-11 at the Cae in Guadalajara.

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“Prime Video Direct recognized that the majority of films screened at major film festivals don’t secure full service distribution deals (i.e., theatrical, TVOD/DVD, SVOD, etc.) and we believe these high-quality films deserve an opportunity to reach a large premium audience,” said Orme.

“Our job, as a festival is to present new distribution alternatives for Mexican cinema,” said Raúl Padilla López, FICG president of the board. “This is why Prime Video Direct’s Film Festival Stars program is a great opportunity for our filmmakers to showcase locally relevant content to a global market,” he added.

Designed to provide flexibility and control to rights holders as they craft their distribution strategies – which can include both theatrical releases and streaming on Prime Video – eligible filmmakers (participants in Guadalajara’s official Premio Mezcal and Ibero-American narrative and documentary feature competitions) opting films into Mexico and/or the U.S. will receive dedicated marketing and merchandising support and a non-recoupable upfront cash bonus of up to $35,000 as well as earn royalties on a per-hour basis.

“The content owner also retains their rights to other windows outside of SVOD that enable them to have even more flexibility in their distribution strategy, said Orme, who pointed out that the FFS program distributed over $9.5 million in cash bonuses to indie filmmakers and other rights holders last year.

“We recognize that the program isn’t for everyone and is aimed at content owners who don’t secure full service distribution deals or want to self-distribute and maintain control of their rights,” he said. “Each film is unique and we believe expanding distribution options for filmmakers will result in more great films reaching a larger and more diverse audience.”

Amazon Prime’s FFS initiative in Guadalajara dovetails with the company’s aim to ramp up its Spanish-language programming worldwide. It recently inked a multi-series pact with Mexican media giant Televisa’s new premium content unit, Televisa Alternative Originals. In Spain, Amazon Prime is teaming up with Mediapro and La Liga to make their first Spanish original series, six-part soccer doc series, “Six Dreams.”

The 33rd Guadalajara Festival runs March 9-16.