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AFMA reaches capacity level.

AFMA Reaches Capacity Level

Having significantly expanded services to its members, the American Film Marketing Association has now reached a record membership total of 117 and is closing its rolls until next summer, reports Jonas Rosenfield, the AFMA president.

What's more - and he considers this a favorable omen for the year to come - the American Film Market in Los Angeles in February is completely sold out. "All offices at the market are committed. The Loews's Hotel is full. We have people on the waiting list, hoping that someone is going to drop out," Rosenfield said.

AFMA has been a success story, considering that it embraces the independents - producers, distributors, sales agents - which, by general concensus, are having a fairly rough time of it these days.

As Rosenfield sees it, the coming year will be one of "change and challenge. A lot depends on the product. People who are blessed with strong product will do very well. Those who haven't heeded the warnings that the industry is changing, and who are stuck with a lot of unimaginative, low-budget films, are likely to be in in a lot of serious trouble."

"We have many problems," he added. "As entrepreneurial people, with low overheads, many of our companies will have to find ways of changing to survive. Actually, this should be a good time for the independents. The |big is better' concept is being challenged. There are still people around who have a dream to make a movie and who go out and do it, despite obstacles. Look at a film like Dances with Wolves, which was made despite the lack of interest by the industry." The ample AFMA membership "comes as something of a surprise to us," Rosenfield admitted, but added "It shows a vitality and a continuation of the entrepreneurial optimimism and spirit."

The Association isn't opening foreign offices, but is in the process of determining what sort of representation it should have in Europe, Rosenfield said. "It looks as if we will be developing intelligence operations there, to find out what is going to happen before it happens, and to give us a chance to do something about it, to create an action program."

Also in the conversational hopper - AFMA representation of independent television producers and syndicators. This has been a topic of some discussion between Rosenfield and AFMA chairman, William Shields, and it was taken up at a recent luncheon with TV executives. "It's nothing we are going to do overnight," Rosenfield said. "We are just exploring the idea. We are trying to see what services we have that would be of interest to them."

AFMA services these days address the needs - and practical problems - of independents.

The Association, for instance, maintains a Credit Watch, which rates buyers' credit ratings. "We have 800 buyers rated," Rosenfield says, adding with a laugh "It's probably the most popular service we offer."

AFMA also issues a voluminous Fact Book, providing business information details for many territories.

The Association provides its members with a standard contract, giving standard definitions of territories and media. Additionally, AFMA has set up an international arbitration procedure, which is written into the standard contract. "It's a fast, mandatory, inexpensive way of resolving disputes," Rosenfield says, reporting that over 50 arbitrations were filed by AFMA members and licensees during the past year.

To provide the procedure with teeth, the rules warn that, if someone does not fulfill an arbitration award, he can be deprived of entrance into our market, according to Rosenfield. The Association has a title registration program embracing over 10,000 titles. The main purpose of it is to fight foreign piracy and to identify the rightful owners of pictures. Registry also helps to combat false registration, which Rosenfield terms "the most insidious form of piracy," in that it uses forged documents.

"Often, this results in the rightful owner going into a territory and having to prove his rightful ownership to a picture," he said. "We have instituted a system where a buyer can come to us and, through the AFMA registry, can establish who actually has the rights in a given territory. This is a big step forward in programming."

AFMA also engages in quite extensive lobbying programs in Washington. It is, for instance, a member of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which represents the copyright industries. Further, the Association is a member of the International Federation of Film Producers Association.

AFMA has no intention for the moment of opening its doors wider to foreign producers, Rosenfield said.

PHOTO : Jonas Rosenfield, president AFMA
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Title Annotation:American Film Marketing Association
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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