New U.K. funds ride wave of initiatives

Three film development funds are to be launched in the U.K. Coming on top of a host of other development initiatives unveiled in recent months, the funds may be signaling that the hard-pressed U.K. production sector could be set for a development-led upturn.

First fund out of the gates is likely to be Persona Films, brainchild of Richard Stanniforth of Welsh nonprofit film company Ffilm Cymru. Over £1 million ($1.96 million) has been secured from Ffilm Cymru backers BBC Wales and commercial broadcaster S4C, as well as from a major European bank. Stanniforth expects an April launch.

According to Stanniforth, Persona will be a commercial venture with no obligation to work with Welsh themes or talent.

The second fund is being put together by indie producer David Marlowe in collaboration with sales agency J& M Entertainment and an unnamed investment company in the U.K. Marlowe expects the fund, called Source One, to invest £5 million ($9.6 million) over five years. Exec explains that the fund will be capitalized at “a lot less than that” because the money will be turned around quickly and J& M’s involvement will leverage the initial investment.

The plan is for Marlowe and his partners to develop projects and for J& M to have first look. J& M can put up half the cost of putting projects into production, and rejected projects may be taken elsewhere, per Marlowe.

Per Mike Ryan, co-chairman of J& M, scheme could prove a useful source of product, with eight to 10 projects being developed each year. Attraction for him, says Ryan, is the early involvement of his company.

Third fund is the work of producer Lyn Goleby, who expects the fund to be operating by May. Plan is to link Goleby’s Moonlight Films with other partners.

Other recent film and tv initiatives include Union Pictures (backed by Time Warner, Dentsu and Greater London Enterprises Development Capital) and Workhouse (backed by investment bank Robert Fleming).

In addition, Paramount is backing a substantial amount of U.K. film development via London-based exec Ileen Maisel; Fox has put comedy development coin into John Goldstone’s Revere Entertainment; Sandy Lieberson is sitting on a pile of proposals at MGM; Universal is funding development at Prominent Features; Warner Bros, is linked with Jake Eberts’ Allied Filmmakers and with David Puttnam’s Enigma; international consortium Filmtrustees is funding development at Initial Pictures and Jeremy Thomas’ Recorded Picture Co; Chrysalis is funding Red Rooster; public company Booker is an investor in Film & General; and Scottish TV is seeding Iain Smith’s Applecross.

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