Live wires spark Arclight

Duo banking on relationships, associations, low overheads

SYDNEY — Launching a film production and sales operation at a time when the indie business isn’t exactly booming is a risky venture. Victor Syrmis knows that — and relishes the challenge.

The low-profile financier has joined forces with sales vet Gary Hamilton to launch Arclight Films, which is debuting at the Cannes market with a sizable slate of international and local films.

“With the business in flux, it seemed to be the right time to start this company,” said Syrmis, who has been involved in the financing, distribution and production of more than 60 films, chiefly via a co-venture with L.A.-based Strand Releasing which ended amicably three years ago.

“I like the entertainment business and risk-taking. Instead of being cautious, we’re jumping off the cliff.” To minimize those risks, Syrmis and Hamilton are banking on several factors including:

  • Hamilton’s sales savvy and relationships with international distribs and Oz and British producers, stemming from the 12 years he spent at Beyond Films as general manager.

  • Arclight’s close association with prolific U.K. producer Spice Factory, which is contributing five films to the firm’s slate. They include “Baby Juice Express,” “Bollywood Queen,” “Married/Unmarried” and “Mr. In Between.”

  • An alliance, due to be announced in Cannes, with a prominent Oz production company.

  • Keeping overheads low by being based in Sydney, with a lean staff comprising Syrmis as chairman, Hamilton as managing director, general manager Ian Gibbins, development manager John Kim and a biz affairs consultant.

Hamilton got to know Syrmis six years ago when the latter was acquiring films for Strand; ironically, Syrmis never bought anything from him.

Their gameplan is to sell 6-7 movies each year and to develop and produce at least two Aussie movies annually. Hamilton suggests some of the Oz films could be big-budget productions which Arclight would make with other partners and not necessarily retain sales rights.

The firm aims to identify emerging Australian directors with whom it will develop business relationships, harnessing homegrown talent with commercial, mainstream projects.

Its first Aussie acquisitions are “Subterano,” a sci-fier about a group of misfits trapped inside a deadly video game, starring Alex Dimitriades; and “One Fine Day” (a co-prod with Spice Factory), featuring Kerry Armstrong, directed by Paul Currie.

Also in its stable is U.S. drama “Face,” which preemed this year at the Sundance fest. Toplining Bai Ling (“Red Corner”) and helmed by Bertha Bay-Sa Pan, it’s the saga of a spirited Chinese American girl who flees a forced marriage.

“I have changed professions five times in my life,” said Syrmis, whose previous careers have included being a doctor of medicine and investing in real estate and medical research. “This is just another cycle.”