Exec producer forms MoliFilms

LONDON — Mark Foligno will quit as managing director of London post house Molinare at the end of April in order to devote himself to running his own production and financing venture, MoliFilms.

He couldn’t have picked a more triumphant time to do so.

Foligno, an exec producer of “The King’s Speech,” was responsible for Molinare’s investment of $320,000 in Tom Hooper’s Oscar winner in return for a 5% equity in the film — on which it did vfx. In addition to a healthy return from the investment, the company is getting a big boost in its post-production business from the kudos glow.

But Foligno, a former Sony Broadcast exec who acquired Molinare in 2003 and sold it to India’s Century Communications in March 2008 under a three-year earn-out deal, is seizing the moment to strike out on his own again.

He founded MoliFilms in 2009 with fellow investors Brad Moore and Richard Turner as a sideline to his corporate role at Molinare. The company backed “Cherry Tree Lane” by Paul Andrew Williams, then produced and financed David Blair’s “Best Laid Plans.” Now Foligno is plunging full-time into ramping up the production slate.

MoliFilms is aiming to raise $3.2 million this year from private investors, the maximum allowed under the U.K.’s Enterprise Investment Scheme tax shelter. Foligno expects to leverage this coin with traditional sources of production finance to bankroll an annual slate of four to six projects, each costing around $3 million.

Foligno says his plans have been significantly aided by the U.K. government’s recent decision to sweeten the EIS tax break this year from 20% to 30%, and next year to dramatically increase maximum fund-raising from $3.2 million to $16 million. He expects to tap a fresh round of EIS coin each year.

MoliFilms is not simply a financing vehicle, but will originate and produce its own material.

“We are developing, looking for scripts, taking options on books and plays,” Foligno says. “Our goal is to put 30% equity into our films, get 18% from the tax credit and then go to distributors or regional screen agencies for the rest.”

His priority is to make mainstream, not arthouse, fare. “We’re looking for atypical British projects,” he says.

“Best Laid Plans,” which cost less than $1.6 million, was pre-sold to Sony U.K. Described by Foligno as ” ‘Midnight Cowboy’ set in Nottingham,” it stars Stephen Graham (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Lost”).

Upcoming projects include Simon Rumley’s “Stranger” a thriller about two mining execs on a business trip to China who find themselves in a world of trouble when their host is murdered.

Writer/director Kate Sinclair is developing “Thief in the Clouds,” with Dominic West to star as a washed-up journalist who decides to turn his life around by entering a gruelling 24-hour run around England’s Lake District.

Foligno certainly proved his eye for material at Molinare. He launched the company’s strategy of putting cash into indie pics in order to secure post-production work as a way of surviving the recession. It has invested in more than a dozen projects over the past three years.

As well as backing “The King’s Speech,” the company invested in helmer Duncan Jones’ debut “Moon,” Scandinavian hit “Arn” and “Killing Bono.” Less successful titles included “Ironclad,” “Chatroom” and “Pelican Blood.” “To say we recovered our money on all the films would be a lie, but Molinare will more than recover its total investment over the period,” he says. “And by working on ‘The King’s Speech,’ Molinare has elevated its reputation so that it can attract films like Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus.’?”

It remains to be seen whether Molinare will continue to invest as much into production after Foligno’s exit.

Foligno says he’s leaving the company in fine shape to pursue its core business of post-production and vfx. Under his ownership, the facility doubled its revenues and moved from loss into profit, and since 2008 under Century, it has upgraded both its staff and its technology. It also just completed construction on the largest 3D grading theater in London.

Foligno believes Molinare, as well as offering the full spectrum of post-production services, can now even compete with larger specialty vfx houses Double Negative, Framestore, Cinesite and MPC. “Historically (those four houses) were known for competing at a higher level, with a more Hollywood polish, but the investment by Molinare’s new owners means that is no longer the case,” Foligno maintains. “If you look at ‘The King’s Speech,’ with 186 invisible visual effects shots as well as matte painting, that’s work of the highest quality.”

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