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Funder takes final fling at German coin

Lighthouse reviewing 15 potential titles

BERLIN — German film funds may be coming to an end, but one new outfit, Lighthouse Structured Finance, has brought together a motley crew of U.S., U.K. and German industryites for a last-ditch effort to raise some E20 million ($24 million) for up to five features while the getting’s still good.

The fund company’s top execs and consultants include Thomas McGrath, former Viacom Entertainment VP; EugenMartin, a former exec at fellow fund operators VIP Medienfonds and Equity Pictures; former Constantin exec Jochen Kamlah; producer Mark Damon; Future Film Group topper Tim Levy; and David Molner’s Los Angeles-based production services company Screen Capital Intl.

Lighthouse is reviewing some 15 potential titles, including projects by veteran U.K. filmmaker Roland Joffe, which it will present to investors in November for selection. Pics include Joffe’s “Marlow,” a fictional account about the Elizabethan scribe and his escape to Italy following his supposed death at age 28 in a London bar brawl; and “Cruel & Unusual Punishment.” Damon is producing both. Also to be considered is “Showgirls 2,” produced by Brad Krevoy and Donald Kushner.

“This year is the last possibility for investors to invest in film funds as they are currently known,” says Martin, who co-manages Lighthouse along with McGrath.

With new federal elections planned for September, the German government’s proposed tax reform package that would have killed tax-haven film funds has been shelved. But the opposition Christian Democratic Union, widely expected to unseat Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats, has nevertheless vowed, if it wins, to carry on with similar economic reforms that would shut down all tax-sheltering investment funds.

Established in February, Lighthouse may be new on the market, but it was formed by a group of people from diverse sectors in the industry with years of experience and excellent contacts, says Martin. “We want to offer our investors the best possible opportunities by giving them the chance to meet people who really know the market,” he says.

While Martin acknowledges that the tax write-off is usually the main reason behind investors’ interest in film funds, he notes that investors still want to make a realistic profit as well as get the write-off.

For investors, he adds, the more knowledgeable the people behind the fund, the better chance they have of getting a successful film and a good financial return.

Although this will be the final year for private film funds to raise capital while offering investors the opportunity to write-off their investment, Martin says the company intends to remain a player in the market, and is developing a new for-profit, non-tax-sheltering investment fund to be introduced this fall that will be legal under the proposed new law expected next year.

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