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The vast majority of Canadian companies cannot afford the AFM’s “full participant” fee and will attend as visitors, meaning simply they can buy, but not sell product.

Canadian Catch-22

Most indie exporters resent the strict rules and believe they are being excluded from a club which penalizes the poor and “makes the rich companies richer,” according to one rep who requested anonymity. He said he feared having his pass revoked or being forever “banned from the club.” His sentiments are not unique among Canadian industryites.

The Catch-22 is of course that they need the American Film Market, so most of the 18 Canadian companies there have sales reps parading as buyers. Some are legitimate buyers, but many are hoping to plant the seeds for a sale to be inked at Cannes or another major event. And many are hoping to negotiate coprod deals.

But none of them will say so for the record. They’re almost all willing to voice their beef, but only without names attached.

“What do you think all those sellers are doing there?” quipped one Canadian importer/exporter. “They’re doing deals in restaurants and hotel rooms. That’s what they’re doing.

“Europeans and smaller American companies are all doing the same thing,” he said. “Everybody knows it, but nobody will say it.” He said he believes AFM toppers “know it too.”

Jan Rofekamp, topper of Films Transit, chose his words carefully. “What the AFM should realize is that these smaller companies are the companies of tomorrow,” he said. “They should be given a break. I can afford the $750 visitor fee, but I can’t afford the full participant fee of $C15,000 and neither can most Canadian companies,” he explained, adding “so I’m only allowed to buy there. It’s absurd.”

At press time, only three Canadian companies, Malofilm Distribution Inc/Image, Norstar Entertainment and SC Entertainment Corp., were registered as “full participants.”

The rest are there, officially, strictly to buy or network. (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)

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