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Philadelphia Film Market gives filmmakers a chance to showcase their wares

Mick McCleery is coming with Tribute This!, a guerrilla documentary about an unknown British singer/songwriter and the tribute album that his buddies want Bryan Adams, Steve Earle, and Bruce Springsteen to contribute to.

Mick McCleery is coming with Tribute This!, a guerrilla documentary about an unknown British singer/songwriter and the tribute album that his buddies want Bryan Adams, Steve Earle, and Bruce Springsteen to contribute to.

Vincent Zambrano is coming with The Heart of a Broken Tale, a short film about boyhood memories, "love and forgiveness." He's also bringing The Moment I Died, a short he's shown at festivals. (There's a cool Nick Cave song on its trailer.)

Minor Gaytan, a computer animator, plans to show his demo reel, and his latest work using 3-D technology. He'll have the special glasses on hand for anyone who wants to watch.

From New York and New Jersey, from Fishtown and South Philly - and from places more far-flung - filmmakers are heading to the inaugural Philadelphia Film Market, starting tomorrow and continuing through Sunday at the Philadelphia Soundstages, Fifth and Oxford Streets in Kensington.

"We want to take the city's film scene to a higher level," says Leilani Goode, a Philadelphia filmmaker and one of the key organizers of the nascent film market.

Like the annual American Film Market held in Santa Monica, Calif., every fall, or the Cannes Film Market that dovetails with the storied festival in May, the Philadelphia Film Market aspires to bring writers, directors, and production companies together with distributors and buyers. It's a synergy-fest, a networking fiesta, and, those concerned hope, a dealmaking mosh pit, too.

"This is a chance for Philadelphia to have a true first-rate market for showing first-run films that are competitive in the marketplace, for making acquisitions, for putting together distribution deals," says Thomas Ashley, head of Invincible Pictures and host to the Philadephia Film Market. The Philadelphia Soundstages site is his baby.

It was Goode and Steve Greenbaum, codirector of the second annual Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (which runs Thursday through Sunday), who brought Ashley into the picture and persuaded him to get involved in the film market.

Between 50 and 60 exhibitors are expected to set up booths to show their work and their wares, booking time at the market's screening rooms.

Local filmmaker Justin Viggiano, a University of the Arts grad, has a feature, Cold by Nature, that he's hoping to sell. He and his father, Agostino, will also be unveiling the "Scala," an elevator-dolly gizmo they invented.

While none of the major Hollywood studios will be represented, buyers are coming from the Left Coast - and from Australia and Germany, according to Ashley. Representatives from Vanguard Films and Playboy Television will be here.

Eric Min, vice president of sales and distribution at Seven Arts Pictures in Los Angeles, won't be coming, but he's sending a Seven Arts release, The Pool Boys, to the market.

"We really don't know what to expect," he said in an e-mail. "The goal is to just get the film out there and gauge the audience reaction/feedback/word-of-mouth to help us better prepare for the upcoming release. Hopefully, Philly moviegoers will enjoy it."

Ray Murray, head of Philadelphia-based TLA Video and its TLA Releasing arm, wishes the Philadelphia Film Market well.

"It's ambitious," Murray says. "I go to several film markets around the world, and it's a daunting thing, what they want to accomplish. My only fear is going from the Croisette in May in Cannes to [Fifth Street in] North Philly in June might be a little bit of a comedown."

While the American Film Market and Cannes - and the unofficial market attached to the Toronto film festival every year - are big enough to draw major players, other markets lure buyers and distributors by paying their way. The Italian and Spanish film markets - geared, naturally, to selling indigenous films to international buyers - comp the airfare, food, and hotel bills for visiting acquisition folks.

"The competition is tough out there," Murray says, "but I think it's great what they're doing."

And the competition could be tough inside the Philadelphia Film Market, too.

"As far as expectations, we would love to get some real distribution of the film," says McCleery, a Temple film school alum and director of Tribute This! "My thing is making films, I love doing it, love that process and all. But selling films - and I imagine this is the same way for a lot of filmmakers - when you don't have the passion for the marketing side, it's like, how do you get it out there once you're done making the film? . . .

"It's like a relay race, where everyone's got their own little leg with a baton. Getting it together is one leg, and then making the film is another leg, and then editing it - and I guess the fact is we're not able to run that last lap, because we don't have the connections and all to that distribution route. We need someone to run that final leg and get the movie out there to the public. . . .

"So I'm hoping that some distributors will see it and see that it is a story that people connect with."

Ashley, Goode, and Greenbaum are optimistic that there will be deals made at the film market. There will also be a premiere of National Lampoon's Dirty Movie on Friday, with cast and crew doing a Q&A session afterwards. ("Why? Why?")

And there will be industry panels on digital distribution, online distribution, music videos, and state and regional tax incentives for filmmakers. Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, is one of the experts on the tax incentive panel. Michael Nagle, head of affiliate sales for Playboy Television, will talk about the on-demand world.

"What I expect and I hope is that there are some deals made between some filmmakers and some buyers," says Greenbaum. "Things happen . . . then word will get out that deals were made at the Philadelphia Film Market and we'll have more people next year exhibiting and buying and attending.

"That's my hope."