The familiar themes ofchampioning passion projects and sourcing the varied international financingoptions available to independent film-makers dominated AFMA's sixth annualproduction conference in Los Angeles yesterday (17).

Speaking on a panel entitledGetting It Done: Producing Against All The Odds, Media 8 Entertainment chairmanand chief executive officer Mark Damon stressed the importance of picking theright project and staying true to the film-maker's vision.

"A picture like Monster is always there," Damon, whose company financed,produced and handled international sales on the picture, said. "It happens onceevery 40-50 pictures that something registers with the public' the key is tokeep the vision intact."

Damon said he knew afterspeaking to writer-director Patty Jenkins that the story's serial killer andlesbian elements were exploitable for home entertainment, and recognised as thepicture was being made that Charlize Theron's standout performance [which wouldeventually earn her this year's best actress Oscar] would boost theatricalprospects.

"People were telling us tolaunch it at Sundance so it would build buzz and be ready for the 2005 AcademyAwards," he said. "But it was so good it couldn't wait 15 months - I wanted torelease it right away.

"So I spoke to Bob Berney atNewmarket, he said he liked it, and I told him it had to be released rightaway. He said yes and by the time Sundance came around it had already begun itsrun. So the message is to stick to your guns."

Damon added that once thenominations began to roll in for Theron, foreign sales became easier.

Overall the panelists agreedthat international distributors were out there and hungry for product, so longas it came at the right price with major talent and major marketing potentialattached.

Lion s Gate executive vicepresident John Dellaverson said German tax shelters were probably the biggesthelp to the company when it sought funding for projects, adding that Englandwas also regarded as a land of opportunity.

"England is still veryinteresting to many of us, especially if you can combine the Isle of Man option[25% of negative costs covered if 50% of the budget is spent there] with saleand leaseback."