Coin flowing again to indie features

Film Finance Forum East 2012

It is neither the best of times nor the worst, as the climate for indie film financing steadily improves after drying up in the 2008 global financial meltdown.

That’s the consensus of panelists who will speak at the Winston Baker Film Finance Forum East presented in association with Variety.

Executives say all the components of indie film finance are again available — bank loans, gap financing, bridge loans, mezzanine — for features that have a foundation of equity capital and also generated pre-sales traction. Equity is the highest risk layer of capital in film financing since it is usually last in line to recoup.

“There is not a great availability of equity right now,” says Michael Benaroya, chief exec of Benaroya Pictures. “But those with equity can drive more favorable deals” since other types of financiers are willing to step up once they see a fat cushion of equity as the foundation.

Hollywood can pitch equity investors that movies are an “alternative investment class” not correlated directly to the general economy. “You can find interesting opportunities in the film business,” says Teddy Schwarzman, principal of Black Bear Pictures. “It’s not tied into market forces.”

OddLot Entertainment chief operating officer Bill Lischak says distribs open doors wide to any partner with ready financing to co-produce high end films.

“There is a real opportunity to match the product with the talent to come with reasonably priced film projects,” Lischak says. “Even the major studios will become more flexible and expand opportunities for independent producers.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, budgets shrank to sizes that many see as much more reasonable, given that prices being paid for films overseas had also taken a hit. “The problem was the foreign buyers weren’t buying for a while,” says Jay Cohen, head of film finance and distribution at the Gersh Agency. “They focused on local-language production, which was a much safer investment. Now they’re back strong buying global films, though there are still issues in Spain, Italy and Japan.”

Related Links:
Great draw of China

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content