FFC broadening its scope by calling the shots

Org wants to fund more broad-appeal movies, children's pics

SYDNEY — The Aussie government’s pic coin agency, the Film Finance Corp., is about to become even more selective about the projects it co-funds — a significant departure from its inception 17 years ago as a market-triggered investor.

Welcome to the era of Studio FFC.

According to its revamped investment guidelines, released in preliminary form in February, FFC wants to fund more broad-appeal movies and children’s pics.

In the past, the FFC let the production industry propose projects and funded all those that fit its criteria. But after a raft of failed comedies backed by funder Macquarie Films, and then a deluge of adult dramas developed in reaction to that, the FFC has decided to call some shots.

“I’ve seen letters to the editor from parents asking why during school holidays all the family films come from Hollywood,” FFC chief exec Brian Rosen told Variety earlier this year. “It’s their money we’re spending so we should be trying to (rectify) that.

“(Family pics) are something we’re going to do a big push on and we’re not seeing any musicals,” Rosen says.

He says he’s also looking for “drama, light entertainment, a good genre horror, a psychological thriller, a film that’s a very contemporary drama that will appeal to a 21-to-35-year-old audience, which we don’t make many of,” Rosen adds.

“We will look at all sorts of projects and through either evaluation and also the marketplace, depending on what other co-finance comes in, the board will fund with that diversity in mind.”

From the beginning of the new financial year on July 1, coin will be allotted at meetings in July, September, December and March to avoid this year’s situation where nearly all the cash was allocated within a few months.

With A$37 million ($27 million) to spread across up to 16 features, competition is very fierce, especially as the FFC is prepared to take a large stake in sizeable films of say, $12 million, if the producers can convince the board of its broad appeal.

To encourage private sector equity, the FFC is also willing to subordinate its investment, allowing investors first recoupment.

“Anecdotally, people thought there was only a certain kind of film financed by the FFC — we’re saying that’s not true,” Rosen says.

FFC pics have stereotypically been worthy dramas, but in an era when about 90% of all Aussie films have some coin from the agency, Rosen is to keen to dispel that stereotype.

In fact, he uses numerous examples of existing FFC pics, such as “Wolf Creek,” “Like Minds” and “BoyTown,” to illustrate what the FFC is looking for.

Geoff Brown, from the Screen Producers’ Assn. of Australia, says his members agree there must be diversity.

Backing numerous pics with dark, adult subject matter “is not making life any easier with the public or with government,” Brown says.

Producers can deal with the practicalities of that but they are wary of “the tablet coming down from the mountain approach.”

“We are concerned about a precedent set by this ‘slate must look like’ (dictum),” he says.

But until the industry is able to find alternatives to the FFC, they will have to live with it.

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