Professionalism, preparation and passion are the key toselling and marketing independentfilms, a Screen International conference was told yesterday.

New technologies, new distribution methods and new financechannels all seem to offer new routes to success.

But industry experts were united on the need to stayfocussed on the product and the customer at every stage of development.

"In the main not enough homework is done," says BillStephens, owner of international film sales and marketing consultancy Nexus.He said pitches were too often unfocussed.

"Know your audience. There's no point taking your perioddrama to a company that specialises in vampire pictures but you would besurprised how often such things happen."

Peter Fudakowski, managing director of Premiere Productions,producer of South African international hit Tsotsi said understandingthe wider business trends and working on the basics like finance were vital.

"Some people look at Tsotsi like it was an overnightsuccess but in many ways it was the result of 25 years of work."

"I never had any contacts or relativesin this business but when it came to financing something I was passionateabout, I had money put aside."

Marrying belief in the product with research andprofessionalism was the only way to get noticed, said John Durie, chairman ofStrategic Film Marketing.

"Far more films are made than are seen. You have to ask whatmakes your film so special," he said.

The conference included sessions on festivals, public relations, sales agencies, distribution, law, design, guerrilla marketing, online and viral marketing.For more on the conference, see next week's Screen International magazine