Echoing many of the samegrievances that emerged from last year's AFMA financing conferences, apanel of sales veterans at this year's AFM bemoaned the high-risk natureof film funding and warned that production costs in the US need to drop sharplyif the industry is to thrive on diversity.

Nu Image/Millennium Filmsco-chairman Avi Lerner returned to one of his favourite themes when he saidunions were stifling US production and needed to adapt to be of more use tofilm-makers.

'The unions in this country are killing the opportunityto make movies in America,' Lerner told the conference. 'The peoplewho run them don't understand how to make films and they're alwaysthreatening to close your film down. They have no heart. They need to vote inan officer who understands how to make films.'

Lerner said he estimated hiscompany would increase its US-based slate from several projects to around sevenor eight if the unions were reorganized.

Cinetel Films president PaulHertzberg said he took all productions out of the US last year but would returnif California started to offer viable tax incentives.

First Look Media president BillLischak echoed the sentiments of everyone on the panel when he said soft moneyoptions would always be more available but added that sources would probablystart to focus on individual pictures rather than portfolios. 'We need tostructure funding in a sensible way and encourage fresh young voices to comethrough.'

'Five or six years ago you could go to the market andcross off all your pre-sales. Now you can sell a few but it's noteasy,' Capitol Film's head of legal and business affairs HannahLeader told the conference. 'I'm not optimistic about the buoyancyof pre-sales.