David Pisarra

You might have noticed the posters and car adverts that are popping up around town. Maybe you’ve seen the annual directional signs for the attendees that are perched on streetlights, directing the various international filmmakers where to go. Yes, it is that time of the year again – American Film Market (AFM) returns for another round of vigorous ‘glad handing’, ‘intense negotiations’, and ‘film marketing’ for those intrepid independent filmmakers.

The annual onslaught of salespeople, and film distributors comes this week to the Loews Santa Monica Beach hotel, which is turning every bedroom into a mini-boiler room of movie sales. The Market is so large in fact that some bedrooms cum offices will be located next door at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot.

Theaters across Santa Monica will be turned into screening rooms for attendees so your movie viewing this week may be a bit upended, especially if you like those early afternoon matinees for the lower ticket price and the “Free Popcorn Thursdays” when you have a Laemmle Premier Card like I do. You can get one as well, it’s just a prepaid card that gives the holder discounts and a few perks.

AFM is a huge boon to our economy. It brings in thousands of people from all across the globe to both buy and sell entertainment. If you haven’t attended one, it’s an experience unlike any other.

Imagine yourself in a high end hotel. It’s decorated with movie posters and advertising from floor (literally the floor, there are ads on the floor tiles and gobos that shine like the Bat Signal) to ceiling. The columns are wrapped in vinyl, full color posters, shouting Chinese martial arts movies, Christian faith-based films and documentaries. The railings have giant banners hanging from them advertising law firms, business operations and entire country’s film commissions.

As you try to make your way across the crowded lobby, which is swarming with men and women, some in costumes, speaking an untold number of languages, you are hit with the sheer volume of how big the entertainment industry is on a global scale. Filmmakers come here to piece out their film’s licensing to different markets. That means there is big money on the table for a well-pitched movie that serves a defined audience. For example the Kendrick Brothers who make, market and sell Christian faith-based films have a strong track record of making family friendly movies with a message. Their movie War Room was a 2015 hit. It had impressive cross-over appeal to the wider film viewing world. I haven’t spoken with them about this, but I imagine they could have sold the distribution rights to it, in much of the western world, but probably had no takers from Indonesia which is a mostly Muslim country and thus would have few viewers interested in it.

The next ten days we will have guests in our fair city from around the globe asking for directions, seeking assistance on where to eat and probably jay-walking. We should remember that they are here supporting our hotels, restaurants and even the drivers at Free Ride, whose electric mini-busses are emblazoned with the AFM posters, who they should tip freely. Rumor has it that a tip to a Free Ride driver leads to good luck.

There are parties, receptions and film screenings happening all week long and if you can finagle an invite, I suggest you go. I went two years ago to the Thai Film Commission’s reception at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot where I had the opportunity to see a real life princess. It’s pretty darn cool when you can have experiences like that in your own backyard.

So this week when you notice unusually long lines at Café Martin, Bruno’s Pizza and your favorite table at Chez Jay is taken, you’ll know why. Count on the wait at Fritto Misto to be even longer than usual. You can count on delays as well at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern and Herringbone.

Remember these people are our guests and we should be kind, considerate and welcoming to them. Be nice and make a new friend, you never know what will grow out it, and maybe when you go to their country they will return the favor.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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