Alchymie can't conjure cash, fires staff

LONDON — Alchymie, the new British film production and distribution venture, has pink-slipped its entire staff as it cannot afford to pay their salaries.

But chief exec Simon Channing-Williams insisted that the company is not being shut down, and that all its creditors will be paid in full.

Cash crunch

Alchymie is deep in discussions with its backer Flashpoint to sort out its immediate cash crunch and secure the venture’s long-term funding. In the meantime, company will relocate to Flashpoint’s headquarters on Pall Mall.

Although all 18 staffers have been told they will not be paid in March, six or seven will be offered deals to stay on in order to help refloat the venture. These are likely to include head of development Emma Borkovsky, head of creative affairs Stephen Cleary and chief operating officer Gail Egan, along with Channing-Williams.

High hopes

“We and Flashpoint still believe that Flashpoint is going to fund us as it originally promised,” Channing-Williams told Daily Variety.

A Flashpoint spokesman said that Alchymie is “being slimmed down, not shut down,” and will start to gear up again “by the late spring or early summer.”

Alchymie launched in November 1999, with Flashpoint promising $250 million over five years to create a European production and distribution company. The swank launch party included a speech from the U.K.’s culture secretary Chris Smith.

But the first signs of trouble came earlier this year when Alchymie pulled out of its first project, “Born Romantic,” in pre-production. It also suspended post-production on another film, “Strong Boys,” which the company had inherited from a previous production deal between Channing-Williams and Flashpoint.

At the time, Channing-Williams blamed the problems on a temporary hitch in accessing the financing from Flashpoint and expressed confidence that the relationship would be sorted out “imminently.” That didn’t happen.

It’s unclear why the money failed to arrive from Flashpoint as promptly as expected. Flashpoint keeps its sources of coin a closely guarded secret, although it is known to be heavily involved in the insurance markets, which have become much tougher for film financing in the past year.

A Flashpoint spokesman said that Alchymie “was geared up too quickly,” and did not have enough projects to justify its staffing levels.

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