Nuttiness rears its head at AFM

Troma Entertainment presser keeps things interesting

The AFM wouldn't be the AFM without the myriad hustlers, crazy publicity seekers and downright odd attendees skulking around the main atrium looking for attention.

And no year would be complete without a nutty stunt or two from market regular Troma Entertainment and the company's founder, Lloyd Kaufman, who also sports a hat as the chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance.

Most definitely donning his Troma hat on Thursday, Kaufman and his crew made their own inimitable noise, complete with a Troma character named Count Smokula and his accordion, director Penelope Spheeris, indie filmmaker Fred Williamson and a cameo appearance from "Ghost Rider" producer Steven Paul.

Ostensibly to celebrate 10 years of the Tromadance Film Festival and to present the event's Independent Soul Award to multimedia filmmaker Tawd Dorenfeld, the event became a wide-ranging rant about indie filmmaking and what the word really means.

Spheeris, who said that the term "independent" has "become very vague as time has gone on," joked that the Thursday's atmosphere reminded her of being born on a carnival site. "I feel like I'm back there today, and that's meant as a compliment," she said.

Meanwhile Dorenfeld said that there is a "need to redefine independent, especially here at the AFM."

Added Williamson, who has worked with names such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Larry Cohen and William Lustig: "You cannot create a market unless you're a major with a whole lot of money, and even then it's tough. You have to find your market, not make it."

Amid the Troma-led eccentricity and the scantily clad, breast implant-flaunting denizens of the foyer, there remains the serious issue of getting noticed in the glut of finished product, the steady flow of casting announcements for pre-sale scripts and the shrinking slots on buyers' rosters.

Scandinavian sales giant TrustNordisk's Susan Wendt summed it up in a pre-market interview with THR, when she said that the main problem with AFM is not sales per se, "but getting noticed, being able to generate hype for your films."

And this year, there is a perception that buyer numbers are down. One sales veteran said that the number of acquisitions' executives pacing the halls was "definitely down," noting a lack of Spanish buyers.

One U.K.-based acquisition executive said that there is good product to choose from but also a feeling that there is less pressure to put cash on the table. "We can afford to wait and see a bit on some projects, then come back and hope the price has gone down a little," they said.

In the meantime, attendees could not do better than remember the parting words of Williamson, who noted, "remember folks, always keep your dignity," just as the accordion playing Dracula tuned up.
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