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Finance Corp. lowers coin threshold

Agency changing investment guidelines from July 1

SYDNEY — Sales agents, distribs and Oz terrestrial and pay TV broadcasters who want to invest in films with the Film Finance Corp. collectively won’t have to stump up as much coin as originally envisioned in the FFC’s new funding regime.

The FFC board last week agreed to lower the percentages of budgets it will require from presales and distrib guarantees, responding to industry concerns that the targets it proposed last month were too high.

The funding agency is changing its investment guidelines from July 1 as it embarks on a new policy of evaluating projects based on script, creative team, budget in relation to anticipated audience and recoupment potential (Variety April 19-25).

Until now, the FFC put coin into films on the basis of deals that producers secured from local and overseas sources, a system it recognizes meant some films were greenlit without enough scrutiny and without anyone taking responsibility for the choices made.

Producers can still apply for funds based on market attachments, but the FFC stipulates it won’t put up more than 40% of the budget, or 30% in the case of co-prods with international partners, compared with 50% or more previously.

But it’s lowered the percentages that producers must obtain from pre-sales and distrib guarantees from 30% to 25%, and from 35% to 30% for co-prods.

Each project must have a sales agent, an Oz distrib and a deal with a distrib in at least one major territory.

To give producers more incentive for securing such deals, it’s now willing to give them a share of the coin it recoups from the first dollar.

“That means we will forego some money (initially) but we should get more eventually because producers will work harder to sell their projects,” chief exec Brian Rosen tells Variety.

For producers who prefer to have their projects evaluated by the FFC, the agency is hiring two assessors on short-term contracts who will work with Rosen.

Rosen says he’s confident the new funding regime will build a more diverse slate of films that will “ignite creative energy within the filmmaking community.”

The FFC invests about A$30 million ($22.5 million) per year in features; it hasn’t set any formula for dividing its coin between the two streams and says the allocations will depend on the projects.

In another innovation, the agency will provide up to $1.8 million per year for two lower-budgeted children’s TV series. The FFC initially proposed this coin would be for emerging producers but dropped that after the industry said it should be available to all.