Mullis backs pix with global appeal

Film financing division first launched in 2003

SYDNEY — Bangkok-based investment bank Mullis Capital is emerging as a key player in the entertainment business in the Asia/Pacific region.

Mullis’ film arm’s first investment is in “Little Fish,” an Aussie pic starring Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill and Martin Henderson, which wrapped late last month.

And Mullis is preparing to back two internationally sourced features, a TV series and a docu.

“Our business, albeit embryonic today, is targeting English-language product that has a global appeal,” says exec chairman Robert Mullis.

Established in 1998, Mullis Capital has advised on transactions including debt and private equity placements, mergers and acquisitions, and restructurings worth more than $1.5 billion in the Asia/Pacific, the U.S. and Europe.

Mullis Capital’s film financing division launched in 2003. Its backing was crucial in raising the $7.2 million budget for “Little Fish,” according to producer Vincent Sheehan.

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“We had substantial advances for international and Australia (from Myriad Pictures and local distrib Icon) but we needed a bit more, so Mullis was important as the only non-government investment source, along with the Film Finance Corp.,” Sheehan says.

FFC chief exec Brian Rosen welcomed Mullis’ involvement as a vindication of his agency’s strategy of backing bigger, more ambitious films.

Robert Mullis said he was attracted to “Little Fish” as a “very high quality project with one of the best casts that has been assembled for an Australian film in recent years; the film met our criteria in terms of quality of talent and financing structure.”

Mullis says the company prefers to finance films as a developer/producer rather than as a gap financier. “We are more comfortable coming into a project earlier in the process (and co-developing a project) rather than inheriting decisions already made by producers/lenders/investors that may have weakened the potential for an investor to make reasonable returns,” he says.

Mullis has been involved in the music industry in Thailand, including advising Bakery Music on a joint venture with BMG. Along with Sony Music, it was one of the principal backers of Thai singer Tata Young, whose first English-language album is selling well across Asia.

Mullis is nurturing a number of film and TV projects in Thailand and hopes to contribute to the development of Thai scriptwriters, directors, producers and talent.