Market not for faint of heart

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Many people will tell you the American Film Market can be a scary place, what with the abundance of Z-grade slasher flicks, frighteningly aggressive sales agents and ravenous buyers. But as the event launches on Halloween, on the eve of a likely writers' strike, it seems to be spooking out attendees even more than usual.

Some remember the horror of last year's Web outage all too well. "What's scary about AFM is the internet going down and the electricity going off," Myriad Pictures' Kirk D'Amico said. On a slightly more serious note, he fears selling digital rights under the present model, where he said, "everyone in the world would be able to see it for free. It compromises the value of the property."

Other scary thoughts? "The cost of our suite at the Loews," said IM Global's half-joking Stuart Ford. "Thousands of Europeans who want to smoke in Santa Monica but can't," said another longtime attendee.

"Getting from Santa Monica to Hollywood in a hurry," said ThinkFilm's Mark Urman, who recalls taking two-and-a-half hours to get from his hotel to an important AFI screening last year. "Unless you have a helicopter you will not make it. Given the amount of time it takes, you may as well go to Chicago. I have to go into self-hypnosis mode to get through it."

But the traffic may prevent some potential customers from escaping. "With our U.S. Peso being what it is, I fear that many of the European buyers will be spending half their time in Beverly Hills and elsewhere shopping for bargains as with their Euros and Pounds," Lightning Entertainment co-president Richard Guardian said. "For them, this country is like one giant factory outlet!"

Some fear visitors who they consider a waste of time. "The scariest thing is when I'm meeting with a foreign sales agent and they inevitably realize that I'm not a distributor and I'm not there to buy their movie," said South by Southwest's Matt Dentler. "I just wanna program it so that someone at SXSW will buy it. Sometimes makes for a short meeting and quick handshake and good-bye."

And for those meetings where both parties want to actually meet each other on a super-tight schedule, the fear is being out of sync. "Pushing Daylight Savings Time back this year has screwed up the calendars on everyone's BlackBerries," notes Roadside Attractions' Dustin Smith. "So when someone is an hour late (or is it early?) for their meeting, it's not their fault. Blame those stupid farmers."

The expert on what's frightening may be Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, who's produced a slew of horror films and was recently elected to a two-year term as chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. He'll be hosting such stars as the Toxic Avenger and the Chicken Indian Zombies from his film "Poultrygeist" at his Halloween press conference as he announces a new September version of the Tromadance Film Festival in Franklin, Ind. "Seeing Hillary Clinton on TV in the airport on the way in was scarier for me than the chicken Indian zombies," he said.
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