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AFM: Indie Films Sharpen Competitive Edge

As the independent sector continues to navigate choppy waters, a number of savvy sales and finance outfits are leaning on film funds and credit facilities to give themselves a competitive edge.

Back in May, Glen Basner’s FilmNation Entertainment secured $50 million in additional capital from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Union Bank for an equity-backed, part debt, revolving credit facility.

The same month, the Solution Group joined forces with Siren Studios to raise a $50 million revolving equity film fund to finance six to 10 movies a year.

“We had been trying to find ways to grow our business and we needed access to equity to do that,” says Basner, whose company’s longstanding relationship with a number of individuals at both banks, many of whom had overseen a raft of single picture deals with FilmNation, helped spur on the deal.

The first film to use capacity on the debt side is David Michod’s “The Rover,” toplining Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. The company is putting together the first three productions that will benefit from the equity.

The Solution Group’s Myles Nestel says its revolving equity fund has given an advantage when it comes to optioning and securing material. When we started the company we always had the goal to access capital. “A bunch of films we’re announcing for AFM will be ones we will be using our equity resources for.”

Already the company has greenlit Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz starrer “Laggies” through the fund using a mix of equity and debt.

The goal, says Nestel, is to leverage as much as possible for pics with debt and utilize the equity as efficiently as possible. “It’s really just looking at each individual film and seeing where the capital is best placed.”

U.K.-based film financier Prescience is expert in the fund biz. “The King’s Speech” backer offers everything from start to finish, including providing equity, gap, cash-flow tax-credits and presales via its sales banner Metro Intl., and even provides strategic short-term loans to facilitate pre-production.

The outfit, which recently backed pics such as “Last Days on Mars,” “Better Living Through Chemistry” and Nina Simone biopic “Nina,” will soon announce its first P&A deals in the U.K. and U.S.

Prescience CEO Tim Smith says, “There is a greater understanding of the business of film by investors and greater realism on the part of filmmakers about budgets. In addition, the studios have effectively left the playing field to concentrate on pricier and riskier tentpoles.”

Altitude Film Entertainment, which launched last year, considered raising a tax-based production and acquisition fund but instead has chosen to fund films on a project-by-project basis. The company, in addition to shareholder funding, has raised a working capital bank facility.

The company’s Andy Mayson says: “There are equity investors out there, but it’s imperative their needs and expectations are matched to the producers.”

(Pictured: “The Rover” is the first FilmNation pic to use its new capital.)

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