Question for FilmTVLaw.com:
A friend of mine recommended the forum! The only real inside information around anymore. So, what is selling at AFM? I am trying to decide what to push between two or three projects I’ve got in development.
Answer by Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer:
Thanks again to everyone that came down and visited during AFM this year. It was a busy five days. After meeting with so many buyers I did get a sense of where the market is and am happy to share some insights. I am dividing the following article into the following reports: Pre-sales, Market Stratification, Genre and Foreign Buyers, and Independent Television. I have represented more than 50 feature film and television series over the last 17 years and our firm consults on development, finance, marketing and distribution. Find out more about me at www.filmtvlaw.com.
To start, I can provide the first really good news about the film market since 2008, which is that according to nearly every buyer I talked with, this was a sellers’ market! Sellers means filmmakers, so this is a big improvement for all of us who are out there financing, producing and distributing film and television projects. Uniformly buyers were complaining that first, there were not enough new films available at the market, and second, that the quality of what was available was low.
As a result, for the first time in a longtime, buyers are interested in pre-sales again. When there are not enough finished films, buyers have to get involved with financing new projects, just to secure a stream of films for the coming years. This is a huge victory for independent filmmakers, who have been struggling with self-financing since the 2008 financial crisis. The lack of financing has finally caught up with the buyers and the catalog of finished films is so low that we are entering a period of production demand again.
Rise of the Ultra Low Budget
Another dramatic change is that ultra low budget films, films with budgets under $500,000, are in demand. For years this was viewed as a supply driven market segment, where self-financing would take care of the demand. But no longer, as VOD and download platforms have created an almost insatiable demand for projects that can recoup at the lower price points that video-on-demand platforms create. And we are not just talking about Netflix and Amazon either. This is a worldwide phenomenon.
Continued Market Stratification
And as the ultra low budget film is gaining its market, the high budget $30 million to $50 million “independent” films also continue to do well, as big stars and famous properties draw out high finance for these international films. While it seems a little crazy to call a $50 million dollar film an independent, in today’s market studios have competition and the big budgets are driven by an entirely different type of financing.
Genre Is King
Perhaps to an unprecedented level, buyers are buying based on genre, rather than based on stars or on story. The first question is “what genre is the film?” or even “We are buying the following genres.” Forget about trying to pitch a cross-genre film or an arthouse statement film. Unless it fits the buyers check boxes, it is not going to get picked up. This is especially being driven by foreign buyers who are not necessarily familiar with B-Level American star power or name directors. This is also tending to further push the stratification of the market. One of the development services we offer is consulting on genre and foreign territory options for films while still in the development phase.
Finally, the international market is the key to success for most films. To some extent every territory is different, but there are also broad rules about what succeeds and what does not in foreign and non-English language markets. It has been my experience that every film can find an international audience, but only with substantial attention to genre and to story in the development phase. More than ever, films need to “fit the market” to find success in financing and distribution.
Without a doubt, the age of independent television has arrived, and there is an international market for series and episodic programming. This is an amazing development for television producers, because while a market existed for independent films for decades, television generally had to find international network buyers, and hence the demand was more limited. But the transition from DVD and Blu-Ray to video-on-demand and streaming platforms has eliminated the practical difficulty in delivering independent television.
Our firm represents independent film and television producers, and offers consulting packages that include development strategy, genre analysis, international territory sales projections, financial planning, marketing and representation services that can launch any film or television project. In today’s market, there is almost unlimited demand for properly placed film and television projects.
As with any entertainment matter, please do not make a decision about complex issues without consulting an experienced entertainment lawyer first. Feel free to contact my office at www.filmtvlaw.com about a quote.
- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer