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BFI Backs Major New Fund for U.K. Film and TV Producers

U.K. producers have a new potential source of finance after the British Film Institute, Calculus Capital, and Stargrove Pictures launched a new £20 million fund ($25.3 million). The partners are looking to raise that amount to sink into six-to-ten film and TV production companies under the reworked EIS rules in the U.K. The funds are for emerging producers with a track record, but which are seeking to ramp up. They give up a minority equity stake – likely between 10% and 40% – in their businesses in return for a capital investment of between £1 million and £3 million. The government caps investment at £5 million a year.

The BFI’s outgoing CEO Amanda Nevill said that a lack of access to finance is holding back producers from scaling up and profiting from the growth in the U.K.’s growing content sector.

The EIS mechanism had widely been used in the U.K. to back individual projects, but that is no longer allowed. Investments using the scheme must now be in growth companies. In film and TV the cash invested can be used for acquiring IP, paying writers and development execs, and for overheads.

Calculus, which is venturing into the content sector for the first time, will manage the U.K. Creative Content EIS Fund with Stargrove, which has previously backed films including “Selma” and series including “The Fall.” The Fund will be managed independently but in association with the BFI, which said it would be a next step on the ladder for producers and production companies looking to move to a new level.

The partners are targeting a £2 return for every £1 invested. Calculus CEO John Glencross said that the plan is for the companies receiving investment to grow to an extent that they are either sold, list on the stock market, or are at a stage to secure much larger scale investment.

In practice, the fund offers well-known producers setting up shop, or production companies that are growing fast, an alternative to partnering with a larger content group, which will often want to take distribution rights.

The Fund was launched off the back of the BFI’s report into independent film in the U.K., but is open to big- and small-screen producers alike. The indie film business in the U.K. faces many challenges while the TV sector, fueled by demand for high-end drama, is enjoying a period of growth. Companies seeking investment will need advanced clearance from the U.K. tax authorities, which will need to be in place before any cash is handed over.

“I think the independent film landscape remains viable,” Stargrove CEO Stephen Fuss told Variety. “The streamers are picking up independent film content and I think that will continue, especially with Netflix rumored to be setting up a hub here.” He added that talks are already underway with some firms and the first deals using the new Fund are set to be unveiled this year.

Media investors are getting to grips with the new EIS regime and the likes of Great Point Media have already invested in film, TV, and games firms under the new rules.

Glencross said that the U.K.’s planned, albeit chaotic, exit from the European Union would not impact any investment plans or the U.K. companies’ ability to work at an international level, especially given British firms often target international markets outside of the EU. “I don’t really see why Brexit changes anything,” he said. “A lot of people talk it up, but in reality it’s a bit of a false fear.”

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