The possible move to a new part of Los Angeles in 2013 has met with early resistance, but it could be a great way to freshen up the market.
As the AFM winds down in Santa Monica, one issue which seemed to get people worked up as much as the levels of business was the potential move from the beach to downtown Los Angeles in 2013. A petition organized by a group calling itself “Let’s Stay In Santa Monica” was picking up steam and names as the market drew to a close, and attendees mulled the prospect of an AFM moving to the LA LIVE complex in the revitalized downtown LA.
The issue is a complex one, and has drawn a wall of silence from AFM organisers who don’t want to get drawn into the spat before they have to. Maybe the LA LIVE conversation is a tactic designed to make the Loews Hotel lower its ever-escalating prices at a time when film sellers and buyers are looking to cut costs as much as possible.
Maybe, as has been suggested, the proposal marks a legitimate plan to bring the AFM closer to its sister festival AFI FEST, which is based in Hollywood, a much shorter distance from downtown than it is from Santa Monica.
The beach location is beloved by many accredited guests because it is such an iconic representation of southern California. Colleagues of mine run on the beach every morning – a far cry from the hostile winter weather back at home – while the proximity of smart hotels like Shutters and Casa Del Mar offers venues for drinks and dinners overlooking the ocean. Like Cannes or Busan, the attraction is the coastal setting, lending an attractive milieu to the workmanlike nature of the market.
While I understand that attitude, I also believe that AFM should strengthen its bonds with the increasingly influential AFI FEST, and a downtown location could achieve that. What AFM lacks is a palpable sense of cinema, the presence of live audiences and the excitement of first response to films – which both Cannes and Berlin have in spades. AFI FEST doesn’t necessarily have a wealth of independent world premieres but it does boast a host of high profile screenings of newish movies with their directors and actors in attendance and an enthusiastic audience. The festival also hooks directly into the Hollywood establishment with the world premieres this year of Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar and Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and the North American premiere of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin.
AFM has an opportunity here to take advantage of its Hollywood connection and bring the world independent market together with the US industry and the US audience. And what better place to do that that in downtown Los Angeles, the newly hip part of town where the US film industry was born and where the classic movie palaces of old were originally created?
Buyers and sellers don’t operate exclusively in resort-style locations as Berlin and Toronto, which are both centred in busy urban neighbourhoods, prove.
Besides, AFM has not always been wed to Santa Monica. For several years in the 80s, it took place in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Maybe a move away from Santa Monica would give a boost to this event, which could use a little of the red carpet glamour and presence of talent that a festival can offer a concurrent market. In a year where sellers were using Toronto to pitch future projects to buyers like never before, the American Film Market might benefit from a new location.