A space dedicated to Film Commissions inside one of the major international lm markets: from next November the Location Expo is ‘moving’ to the American Film Market that will take place at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel from 1st – 8th November. A move that also represents a return, as the director of the market Jonathan Wolf explains:
“The AFM started Location Expo in the mid ‘80s as a partnership with the film commissioners’ trade organization, the AFCI, and this went on until around ‘92- ‘93, when the AFCI decided to do their show somewhere else and to call it with a different name.
In the early ‘90s, the film commissions were not so interested in the AFM, since the discussion wasn’t about incentives and their message was more focused on the availability of perfect locations, beaches, great crews, the best way to get permits…”
When incentives became more relevant throughout the world, in the late ‘90s, the film commissions started to come back to the AFM on their own: “In the last couple of years we have had between 40-50 film commissions each year as sponsors or exhibitors or attendees: now their goal is to talk to AFM participants about funding, incentives, about the economics involved in helping get their film made”, continues Wolf, “but they felt they were not really part of the show, that they were rather ancillary to it, and so we worked on re-establishing the Location Expo Brand, and repositioning it”.
A physical (“film commissions will be assigned the central part of the hotel, where there is the most traffic”), as well as a virtual repositioning (“we have also helped them with marketing, with a dedicated monthly newsletter, starting on May 9th. Our goal is to let all AFM participants know that there will be lm commissions with incentives there. Plus, we have been able to reposition our security, so credentials are still required to see all the sellers and distributors whereas they are not required to see the film commissions. This is important, since there are many location scouts or line producers who wouldn’t pay for credentials because they don’t need to produce the film and would otherwise meet the film commissioners outside”.
Costs and market access are an important point, and the incorporation of Location Expo aims to strengthen the American Film Market in terms of the services and opportunities offered to clients: “the most expensive part of going to any fair is the travel, so the more you can do on your trip the better. One of the advantages of the AFM is being located in Los Angeles, and when we asked our participants we found out that almost half the meetings happen outside the AFM. This new presence will allow us to offer them added value.”
This central position of the film commissions is linked to a trend which has now become established at more or less all the big markets, the axis has moved increasingly towards the production side which is what, according to Wolf, guarantees the true creative and cultural energy of the AFM:
“At the beginning the AFM was strictly focused on imports-exports, sales companies didn’t want producers, but when I took over the show in ‘98 these same companies felt it was boring. However if you want the vibe, you have to bring in people who have a passion for the business, which is not the buyers! So we worked in the direction of bringing new energy to the production side of the show, given the fact that we don’t have a festival we need to find our creative and cultural energy in different ways.
We started to develop programs, events, activities (5 day conferences whose average audience was 700 per day, cocktails every night on the pier in Santa Monica, only open to the production community, without inviting buyers and sellers) that brought us thousands of producers from around the world: this year we have 15000 producers registered from 50 countries.”