Arclight Topper Gary Hamilton Discusses AFM’s ‘New Normal’

Gary Hamilton, longtime managing director of Los Angeles-based Arclight Films, is preparing for his 36th American Film Market amid the profound changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. His credits include Daniel Radcliffe starrer “Escape From Pretoria” (pictured), “Hotel Mumbai,” “First Reformed,” “Triple Threat,” “Predestination,” “Dog Eat Dog” and “Jungle” starring Radcliffe. Arclight’s AFM sales slate includes Australian historical drama “The Furnace”; coming-of-age story “Chasing Wonders,” starring Paz Vega and Edward James Olmos; martial-arts film “The Foggy Mountain”; thrillers “Bloody Hell” and “Let It Snow”; “The King’s Daughter,” starring Pierce Brosnan and Kaya Scodelario; “Twist,” starring Michael Caine, Lena Headey and Rita Ora; “Here Are the Young Men,” starring Travis Fimmel, Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole and Anya Taylor-Joy; “Possessor,” starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh; and the horror-thriller “The Devil to Pay,” starring Danielle Deadwyler, Catherine Dyer and Jayson Warner Smith.

How are you dealing with AFM being online only in the wake of the Cannes Virtual Market in June and the Toronto Intl. Film Festival in September being a hybrid of virtual and in-person events?

Unfortunately, this is going to be the new normal. The virtual market can be effective because you still have the people there. But having the one-on-one interaction and the socializing that you have at a real in-person market are more conducive to making deals. It is a lot less expensive to do it this way.

Is this going to change how the markets are done, such as AFM reducing the number of days from seven to five this year?

It’s possible. We may fewer days at the four big markets — AFM, Berlin, Cannes and Toronto — in the future, but we’re not in a position to make those changes. But it does not outweigh the business that you can do face to face.

What has changed significantly?

There’s more focus on diversity, which I love. We’ve always been very aware of it and that’s reflected in our slate.

How would you be approaching AFM this year if there were no health crisis?

If things were different, we would be doing a lot more pre-sales but now there’s so much uncertainty. The big challenge is getting films into production. We are producing films in Australia and New Zealand. We’re probably going to be doing more in Asia. Right now, there’s a lot of difficulty in getting a film bonded and getting insurance, particularly in the U.S.

What have you been focusing on during the past seven months on the production side since the pandemic started?

We’ve been very active in developing COVID-friendly movies — very contained with limited casts and great casts.

How are buyers different this time?

Buyers have not changed at all. They’re always going to want more. When you tell them you’ve got Brad Pitt, they’re always going to say, “Yes, but I want Leonardo DiCaprio too.” I did my first Cannes Market in 1985 and I don’t think that’s changed at all.

What else is the same now as then?

The most important thing is that you have passion and commitment. You can’t sell your movie unless you believe that your movie is really good. And that has not changed at all.

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