13 May 2014
… so, to continue …
In November 2004, nearly 10 years ago now, I went to my first ever film market – to ‘AFM’, the American Film Market, in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. But I had absolutely no idea what it was.
I’d initially gone to LA and downtown Hollywood for a ‘Screenwriting Expo’ – 4 days of seminars, workshops, talks, discussions and pitching – as my original plan was to try and sell the screenplay I’d written (by then, thanks mainly to Final Draft software, it was in better shape than the original 1998 pencilled version). Someone at the ‘Screenwriting Expo’ suggested that I should also head to ‘AFM’, which was being held the week after. So I did. At the time, I knew what actors, agents and directors did, but I had no clear understanding about the difference between producers, co-producers, executive producers, line producers or associate producers, nor sales agents and distributors, or the meaning of terms such as pre-sales, negative pickups, gap financing, completion guarantees, ‘independent v studio’, ‘domestic v foreign’, let alone ‘above’ or ‘below the line’ items on a ‘line-produced budget’. I also thought that international ‘B.O.’ meant something other than ‘Box Office’. At the time, it didn’t matter. I was in LA, in Hollywood, in ‘la-la-land’. I was briefly living the dream. Things suddenly got exciting and I was invited to drop the script in at Paramount Pictures. Maybe I was naïve but it felt good. I even phoned Patsy Parfitt, my dear mother, from the famous ‘studio-lot’ to tell her where I was standing. [‘Guess where I am. Guess, Patsy.’ ‘I can’t, it’s one in the morning.’] I simply believed that everyone who said that they loved my script, and loved me (or maybe it was my British accent, I can’t quite remember) and really, really, really wanted to make my movie, were genuinely, no, honestly, seriously, really, really, really speaking the truth. I had a lot to learn.
At that first AFM, I soon learnt that a ‘film market’ is mainly where sales agents and distributors meet to negotiate the sale/purchase/licensing of film distribution rights for territories around the world. Mainly for films that are already complete, or in post-production, or currently filming – i.e., ‘in production’. Also for films that are officially in ‘pre-production’. And sometimes, sometimes for films that are just ‘in development’, but only if there are strong talent elements attached, such as a star actor or star director, or if the screenplay is written by a renowned screenwriter, or adapted from a bestselling novel, or simply irresistible.
But whilst the real business side of the film market focused on sales and distribution deals, many independent producers, studio ‘scouts’, film financiers, literary and talent agents, also attended … many looking for the ‘next project’. As William Goldman, my hero, (and much more on him later) wrote in his excellent book, ‘Hype & Glory’ … “No matter how much shit you may have heard or read, movies are finally only about one thing: THE NEXT JOB. Everyone in the business – I mean giant star actor, star director, studio head, all the way down to screenwriter – is ultimately obsessed with that and only that. The next job.”
The Cannes Film Market is the world’s most important film market – and the Cannes Film Festival places a big emphasis on its parallel event as a way of promoting the ‘dual cultural and economic nature of cinema’.
Here are some figures for you: at the Cannes Film Market, the Marché du Film, there will be 5,049 companies, 11,700 participants from 108 countries, 397 exhibitors, and 1,341 screenings. A total of 5,364 films are represented this year, of which 3,101 are already completed, and 3,340 being presented for the first time at a market. There will be approximately 20,000 film professionals descending upon Cannes this week, including 3,200 producers, 2,300 theatrical distributors and 1,500 sales agents. A lot of them looking for the next project …
[Quick flashback]: Monday, 18th May 2009 – my first ever visit to Cannes. It is my last day. Before driving back to Barcelona, some producer friends in London have recommended that I should pay a visit to the Hôtel du Cap, Eden-Roc, the address of which, ‘Boulevard JF Kennedy, Antibes’, midway between St.Tropez and Monaco, ‘perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the Mediterranean’ is tempting enough. Sure enough, the world’s most celebrated artists, writers, film stars and politicians have apparently ‘strolled the jasmine-scented gardens and sipped the signature Bellinis in the bar’ … but I order a Coca Cola for 8 euros, which is all I can afford. I sit back to admire the starlets strutting in and out, trying to picture Gary Grant, F.Scott Fitzgerald, or Burton & Taylor propping up the bar … when in walks Harvey Weinstein, the man who has apparently been thanked more times than God during the Oscar speeches. Now … if you know me, you’ll know that I can’t resist it. I can’t stop myself.
‘Hi, Harvey!’ I say, getting up and offering my hand for him to shake.
‘Oh, hi!’ says Harvey, friendly enough – shaking hands – yet squinting down at my Cannes market badge, trying to work out if he really knows me, or whether I’m just another crank. There’s a brief silence once he’s figured it out.
‘I imagine you must get so fed up with people pitching to you all the time, right?’ I say.
Harvey smiles, even laughs. He seems very friendly.
‘Yeah, sometimes,’ he says, ‘but it’s OK … what is it?’
So I pitch my project to him. And he’s charming.
This week will be my third visit to the Cannes Film Market. This time I’m heading there with the project entering pre-production. I have an award-winning director, as well as Spanish and British producers ‘on board’. I have a star Hollywood actress ‘attached’ (sorry, I can’t announce names yet). I have sales agents negotiating to represent the film. I have film boards/commissions offering their support. I have key locations secured. I have talent agents in LA and London helping. I even have some very cool and famous guys working on some great soundtrack ideas. It’s been hard, hard work – still is and still will be – but thanks to the people who believe in me, we’re going to make it happen …
You might even find us in the bar of the Hôtel du Cap again …
(To be continued …)