Number of cash pools expand in region

Asian filmmakers should get used to accessing local film funds as the region sees expansion of the number of cash pools available. But they will need to be aware of significantly different approaches to production investment.

The Weinstein Co.’s Asia Fund, which operates a $285 million pool raised last year before the credit crunch, was likened by TWC VP Bey Logan to a reservoir. “It needs water and the right mechanism to extract it,” he said.

Pics must be set in Asia, for instance, but can be lensed elsewhere. Or they can be set elsewhere, if lensed in Asia. The helmer must be born in Asia. The TWC fund provides no coin for development.

“Our fund needs a complete package — script, talent attachments, director and estimates,” Logan said.

And the fund prefers English-language proposals or, failing that, “stylization that overcomes the language barriers, which will tend to mean stylized action films.”

TWC fund’s first fully financed pic is “Shanghai.” It also is prepping a remake of “The Seven Samurai” ahead of a shoot in early 2009.

Meanwhile, RGM, the Singapore-based executive production and packaging group that grew out of an Australian agency, recently raised a $400 million facility and plans to make approximately 10 pics budgeted near $40 million over the next four years. First up is Jan de Bont’s “Point Break 2″ (“Point Break Indo”), which is likely to lense in Bali.

The RGM fund has fewer Asian regional criteria than TWC’s reservoir, but CEO Devesh Chetty said “80% of our productions over the next five years will be shot in Asia.”

RGM similarly prefers the English language, a North American release and a minimum of 30% of the budget covered by pre-sales. However, development finance is available through RGM itself.

Avex Asia director Buddy Marini detailed the outline of Irresistible Films, a joint venture between Avex, Bill Kong’s Edko and Hong Kong financier Hugh Simon. Although its axis is the funding of next-generation filmmakers, Irresistible aims to deliver commercial pictures in the $1 million-$3 million range. Fund will not provide development coin, but instead will team inexperienced helmers with senior producers and retain final cut.

The fund also has an output deal with Nansun Shi and Jeffrey Chan’s Distribution Workshop, which it says will be built to become Asia’s premier sales company for commercial movies. Its first two pics, “Strawberry Cliff” and “Claustrophobia,” which this month bows in competition in Tokyo, are both by screenwriters making their directing debuts. Both also have coin from the Hong Kong government’s Film Development Council.

The experience and commercial focus of the first three funds stand in sharp contrast to the more benevolent approach and market-building being taken by the Asia Culture Technology Investment Co.

“Asia needs to come together as a coalition in order to compete with Hollywood,” ACTI CEO Yoo In-taek said. “Korean film should not be seen as an industry, but as a culture.”

Although it is a venture capital company, ACTI sees its upcoming Asia Joint Venture Film Fund as a public-private partnership. Yoo said the first 10 billion won ($8.25 million) of a projected $25 million, has already been raised in South Korea from state-backed sources including the Korean Film Council, the Korea Development Bank and the Pusan Metropolitan Council. It will next raise $16.5 million from Asian and overseas sources. He said that fund aims to be bold and has few preconceptions as to investment targets.

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