LONDON — An innovative venture to open up sources of private finance for independent films will be launched next month under the banner Plaza Films.
The Guernsey-based company has teamed with Reuters, the financial information giant, to position itself as a bridge between producers and the kind of private investors the film industry has previously struggled to reach.
Plaza will compile a database of film projects seeking equity finance, including an expert assessment of their commercial prospects. These projects will be offered to potential investors via a Web site, which will be heavily promoted on Reuters’ global network of information screens.
Reuters has more than 350,000 subscribers to its financial info service worldwide, including the leading fund managers, brokers and investors in most major financial centers.
Plaza is the brainchild of Zakiya Powell, the veteran British sales agent, and financier David Platt.
Potential investors will be able to scan the database and select their preferred projects to back, with a minimum commitment of $100,000 per film. Plaza will broker the investment according to standard deal terms giving the investor first position to recoup from international sales.
“Most film producers are ill-equipped to go out and find finance,” said Powell, co-founder and formerly joint managing director of Mayfair Entertainment Intl. “They don’t have properly put-together business plans. And investors are frightened of the film business. So we are trying to be a bridge between the two sides.”
Producers will be charged £3,000 ($4,900) to register a project on the database for three months. Plaza will also take 3% of the equity it raises, rising to 10% if it also guarantees the capital with an insurance deal.
“The investor is getting a deal as good as anything in the marketplace, if not better,” said Powell.
Four producers — two Brits, one American and a Canadian — have already signed up with Plaza, ready for the July 15 launch. Plaza is pitching itself as an international concern, in terms of the films it will sponsor (including non-English-language titles), and investors it is attempting to reach.
Stephen Evans, London-based producer of “The Madness of King George,” is seeking $4 million to complete financing of a $6.8 million adaptation of David Lodge’s novel “Therapy.”
American producer Shirley Craig is hoping to raise the entire $3.5 million budget for her comedy “Stuck.”
Christina Jennings of Canadian company Kingsborough is looking for last-minute money to replace an investor who dropped out of already-in-production “To Walk With Lions.”
Richard Holmes, British producer of “Shooting Fish” and “Waking Ned,” is looking for $1.5 million to co-finance a feature version of the Martin Amis novel “Dead Babies.”
Plaza’s process of assessing projects, which includes giving them marks for their viability in a number of categories, is intended to provide a guideline for investors not familiar with the film business.
The company will only accept films that are already at an advanced stage of development. In order to qualify for the database, projects must have a fully developed script, a properly worked out budget, a completion bond lined up, sales estimates in place and a director attached. Projects costing more than $4 million must also have some co-financing in place.
Plaza then rates each project according to four categories — market strength, assessing the sales estimates and the track record of the sales agent; commercial potential, based on subject matter; the creative quality of the screenplay, using reports from three independent readers; and the track record of the talent involved.
Reuters has arranged for Plaza to get a slot on its Cityscreen service, an online interactive magazine that provides Reuters subscribers with general info during downtime when they are not actually dealing.