Fresh from a conferencecall with MPAA chief Jack Valenti, the heads of the studios' specialtydivisions are preparing a follow-up meeting in a bid to thrash out alternativesto the screener ban.

Whilesources described Wednesday's showdown as "positive", details of the agendaremained sketchy other than proposals for less draconian anti-piracy measures.

Itis understood neither Fox searchlight nor the fledgling Warner IndependentPictures took part, in keeping with their no-show at last week's initialstrategy meeting in New York attended by all the other specialty divisions.

Elsewhere,various protest groups continued to work on their strategies as though theindustry furore over the screener bad took a temporary back seat to theCalifornian re-call election that saw actor Arnold Schwarzeneggar sweep intopower as the State's new Governor.

AFMA,the US-based body that represents independent filmmakers and distributors,issued a letter yesterday in which it said the ban would have "devastatingeconomic consequences" for its members.

Aportion of the letter, which was signed by president Jean Prewitt on behalf ofAFMA, read: "Without screeners, independent films may be less viable ascommercial prospects, less likely to be produced or acquired, and less able toattract top-flight talent seeking projects with Oscar potential."

Inrecent days Ang Lee, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory have added their voice toa petition coordinated by IFP/New York executive director Michelle Byrd.

Morethan 150 names are now on the list, including Pieces Of April writer-director Peter Hedges, In The Cut producer Laurie Parker, American Splendor producer Ted Hope, Maggie Gyllenhaal and SissySpacek.

Critics groups havealso voiced their opposition to the ban and it is understood a coterie ofdirectors is preparing to run a protest advertisement in the US press.