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Producers Seek to Become the Engine That Powers Storytellers, AFM Panel Finds

Amid the blur of technological change, producers at the American Film Market are seeking to become an all-encompassing destination for storytellers.

That was the prevailing sentiment that emerged Friday the panel titled the Producer and Financier Perspective at the Fairmont Hotel that drew an audience of some 500-plus. Variety‘s Asia editor Patrick Frater moderated the 45-minute session.

“We are thinking about how to be a platform for storytellers,” said Milan Popelko, chief operating officer of FilmNation. “As the lines between different forms of content bleed — the idea for us is to be a destination for storytellers. And we become an engine that powers those stories.”

He also said that the proliferation of platforms has made actors and directors less available to work on feature films.

“The biggest risk today is seeing something going on and not doing anything about it,” Popelko added. “You have to treat every film like it’s your only film; otherwise, you’re going to be out of business.”

John Friedberg, STX’s president of international sales, concurred and asserted that companies need to constantly figure out what consumers are going to want. SVOD platforms such as Hulu allow STX to operate in multiple areas on such projects as the “UglyDolls” animated movie.

“We have to continuously ask ourselves what the future is going to look like,” he said. “Consumers today are so fast, and you have to find multiple ways to tell your story. We’re always looking for stories that can connect with audiences around the world.”

Arianne Fraser, CEO of Highland Film Group, said that sales agents remain a key component of the indie business because producers need to know specific forecasts of each territory — even amid Netflix’s penchant for worldwide rights deals. “Sales agents are incredibly important,” she added.

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