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AFM Day 4-5: Adrien Brody's WRECKED Sells

AFM Day 4-5: Adrien Brody's WRECKED Sells, Where Not to Film, Mini-Moguls Speak
by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

"Expected to be released in theatres in 2011" might be the most ominous phrase coming out of the 31st American Film Market, which closes on Nov. 10. It's the expectations of buyers and sellers that indicate we're in a worldwide down economy, with many expecting the worst. Not so if you are Adrien Brody, steeped in Oscar potential; and even if your film is WRECKED, someone will buy it. (See our plot sum in Filmfestivals.) The sale was announced yesterday for the car-wreck/amnesia/heist picture.

Warner Bros. UK just announced they won "the battle for Content's IRONCLAD." Actually they didn't announce it, they "revealed" it: "ContentFilm International today reveals that Warner Bros. UK has acquired all UK rights to the medieval action thriller IRONCLAD." Shot in Wales, "the movie stars Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy ("Rome"), and Brian Cox" as a "motley crew of tough, battle hardened warriors who withstood several brutal and bloody months under seige from King John and his army." You can almost smell the popcorn in this logline. The producers are Mythic Entertainment's Rick Benttar and Andrew Curtis, off a script by Jonathan English, Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool. ContentFilm International's Jamie Carmichael, President who struck the deal, noted that IRONCLAD is "one of the biggest independent movies shot in the UK last year." This deal sounds... ironclad. And Derek Jacobi is in it.

AFM Fin Conference: Moguls Draw a Crowd

AFM 2010 is probably going to be remembered as reminiscent of the bar scenes in CASABLANCA, where everyone is waiting for deal memos instead of letters of transit; and the enemy is not the Gestapo but the wolf at the door. Lowe's atrium cafe or the Filmmaker's Lounge at Le Merigot may not have the panache of Rick's Cafe Americain, but the waiting and whispering is the same.

"Don't shoot anything in Sri Lanka, they are very corrupt. They still owe me money," an anonymous director hissed. "We got money from Australia and China," said another unnamed producer, adding that the degrees of difficulty are de rigueur. "Are you going to blog about this?," a third worried aloud. The worst part is, in a tense economy, in eco-insane Santa Monica, cigarette smoking is almost a shooting offense.

Secretly you know re-trenched Hollywood behind the scenes is not exactly buying the party line in the Show Directory: "AFM is where ideas become projects and scripts become films. It's where the world's distributors share their insights and knowledge of global trends and tastes. Only at AFM will you find all those who turn ideas into films and bring magic to the screen." These optimistic words are attributed to Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment, the 2010 Chairman; the delightful and gracious Jean M. Prewitt, President & CEO; and Jonathan Wolf, AFM's dour Managing Director, who typically gets besieged with issues like broadband and decorum.

That said, merely a hotel away, at Shutter's you know ex-WME honcho Cassian Elwes is taking a meeting on a project in development with a director who's flown in from the East Coast for the week; so technically it's part of the AFM buzz because the director is attending the show. You can almost hear them saying "We'll always have Santa Monica."

Just like the Peter Lorre character who seeks respect from Humphrey Bogart for possibly killing the two German couriers, even veteran filmmakers have to earn points this year by ruthless measures for selling their wares. "A deal isn't a deal until it's a deal," as the saying goes. Or, harking back to Robert Evans, "the f-cking you get is not worth the f-cking you get." "Can you get me to HBO? HBO might buy this, I'd even go for HBO," one filmmaker from New York admitted aloud. Whereas, once upon a time it was theatrical release or die, now pride of platform is out of the equation while anything 3D or supernatural has instant credibility.

On the bright side, if you're President of like Donald Wyatt who flew in from Tampa, Florida to survey the landscape of cinematic offerings, you're in great shape. "People ask me if I make the films we sell, I tell them I'm not that creative! But I have great taste," Wyatt said. "We look for unusual stuff, motorcycle trips across the desert, really interesting things -- which can be shot by one person. Really cool stuff." And, he added, "We don't see DVD's going away, by the way, anytime soon. People want to hold onto something, see something on the shelf, even if they have it on their Kindle."

Tonight Bigfoot Entertainment is throwing a party on tres hip Abbott-Kinney Blvd. in nearby Venice, Calif. Parties are always a good sign. (They waltzed at Verdun, non?) And tomorrow the British Academy of Film & Television is hosting the most au courant conference of the show: "Film Marketing & New Social Media -- Maximizing Exposure in the Internet Era." Maybe some of these sellers will strike their own deals based on a digital buzz.

But what of the modern moguls? Yesterday they got together to talk about "De-mystifying the Economic Implications of Electronic Delivery and the Recession on Film Performance." Just to mention the R-word (recession) takes balls. The big news is that Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum will helm MGM after the bankruptcy dust settles, and movies will still be made (in case you wondered). The body language on the honchos and CEOs in the room was nuanced enough to telegraph that the grip of tight money is not letting up any time soon. Why should today be any different?

Hollywood Heavy Hitters on Deck: Entertainment CEOs Discuss The Economy

To close with some good news, hot off a wilted press release, "FilmDistrict, the recently announced company founded by Graham King, Tim Headington and Peter Schlessel, has acquired all US rights to DRIVE, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks. DRIVE, currently in production, is the first film co-produced and co-financed by OddLot Entertainment and Bold Films in association with Marc Platt Productions. FilmDistrict is planning to release the film in the fall of 2011."


The London and LA-based Stealth Media Group, an all rights Film Distributor and International Film and TV sales company, has boarded DARK PEAK, a sci fi thriller in the vein of ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’ meets ‘Descent’ and based on a true story.

The film has been written by Alistair Audsley and is being directed by Ben Jagger."

One more from Asia: "Record-high sales figures were reported on Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s latest title WU XIA. Following its AFM lineup announcement, the $20 million action film was quickly picked up by Luxuries Resources for both Singapore and Malaysia in a record breaking seven digit figure which would surpass the previous record held in those territories. PT Teguh Bakti also acquired the rights for Indonesia." Selamat jalan, as they say in Bahasa, so signing off.

All in all you know AFM is still important because, unlike in days gone by in America when Homeland Security issues did not exist, you are now required to wear a photo badge that makes everyone look like they were hit with the ugly stick. (Not to imply that enterprising attendees used to "lend" out their badges, of course.)

Stay tuned for more coverage from the 31st American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif.
Quendrith Johnson LA correspondant _sells_where_not_to_film_mini_moguls_speak


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