'El Frances' kicks off French house's new strategy

France’s Backup Films is structuring finance on “El Frances,” directed by Belgium’s Olivier Van Hoofstadt (“Dikkenek”).

“Frances” joins a string of brokerage or investment deals on movies that are establishing Backup as an expanding force in European film finance.

A thriller, “Frances” is set up at Jean-Baptiste Dupont and Cyril Colbeau-Justin’s Paris-based LGM, an action and crime drama-oriented house producing Olivier Marchal’s “Les Lyonnais” and Guillaume Canet’s “Rivals,” co-written with James Gray.

Budgeted at €8 million ($10.9 million), and co-produced by 74 Films, “Frances” is based on the true story of a man who winds up in jail in Ecuador after buying cocaine for the French authorities.

Backup will structure “Frances” as a European-South America co-production, aiming for a late 2011 shoot, said Backup partner Joel Thibout.

Brokerage on the Van Hoofstadt thriller reflects Backup’s desire to get involved in European co-productions with international ambitions, Thibout said.

In part, the company is already there. Operating Sofica tax-break fund Coficup, Backup has just taken a 20% equity position on omnibus feature “7 Days in Havana,” from France’s Full House and Spain’s Morena Films.

Directors include Benicio Del Toro, Laurent Cantet, Gaspar Noe, Pablo Trapero, Elia Suleiman, Julio Medem and Juan Carlos Tabio. Principal photography starts in late February.

On Spaniard Juan Carlos Medina’s horror pic “Painless,” Backup has just structured a co-production between France, Spain and Portugal. Backed by Ibermedia and Eurimages funds, “Painless,” about sinister experiments on people who are unable to feel pain, rolls late spring.

Next steps for Backup, Thibaut said, are to finance more series and non-French films or skeins.

Backup has launched financing on the seminary-set fiction miniseries “Ministries.” Budgeted at an ample $1.4 million per seg, “Ministries” is backed by broadcaster Arte.

In all, Backup gap financed nine productions at Berlin, including Julie Delpy’s “Skylab,” sold by Films Distribution.

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