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Film finance roundtable: 'The advantage is having great material'

EXCLUSIVE: The money’s around, but only for perfectly packaged product. That was the message from film finance experts during a special roundtable discussion during AFM.

K5 Media Group, in association with Norway’s FilmCamp and Canada’s Mediabiz, hosted the intimate closed roundtable discussion at Shutters on Saturday evening during AFM to bring together top-level industry experts to discuss the challenges and trends in feature film financing.

Scott Lambert, an executive at Film 360 who has previously worked at Relativity, noted very clearly: “If you had a nice package you were in good shape at this AFM…The key right now is great scripts. The advantage is having great material. We’re all going after the same actors and directors. If you go in with the best material, you get the attention. And then you get the attention next time too.”

Grant Cramer [pictured], executive vice president of Envision Entertainment, added: “Of you have a good package there are a lot of distributors out there.”

Cramer agreed that only the best scritps were attracting top talent. He told a story about a recent project for an adult drama “about the human experience,” not an easy-sell genre film. “It was a great script. Not an automatic one for foreign sales but the sales team had the same reaction we did, and buyers have been responding to this dramedy (because of the great script) it was very refreshing to see that material was winning out.”

Sergei Bespalov, co-chariman and CEO of of Aldamisa added: “The challenge is the lack of projects. It’s the actors, the script, the package. There’s no problem with the money these days, it’s the lack of quality product.”

Several participants pointed to a bottleneck that many films were chasing after the “same 10 actors,” which can get their films financed and greenlit.

Talk also turned to international opportuntiies.

Mediabiz’s Karine Martin noted that Quebec had a new $100m fund for film that needed to tap into those quality projects. “We want to find the partners to build an intelligent pipeline,” she said.

Svein Andersen head of production at FilmCamp, a studio facility and regional fund based near Tromso, Norway, noted that his country was trying to open up to more international co-productions. “We are trying to go into marketplace more. We have to go into the global marketplace, we have to go much stronger in international markets, we need to build a storng commercial industry,” Andersen said. One intiative to spur more cooperation across borders was a new US-Norwegian script initiative, which can also build on the buzz factor of Scandivia’s hot properties over the past few years.

David Wicht, founder and CEO of Cape Town-based Film Afrika, noted how busy South Africa had been for shoots because of it’s uncapped production incentive. “Budgets are getting higher and higher,” he said, noting that the Mad Max production involved a whopping 1,000 people. “One picture can take four crews,” Wicht said. “It’s a great growth path for us, we just have to manage that growth path so we don’t burn out.”

Screen International was a media partner for the roundtable, which was organised by Katrina Wood’s MediaXchange.

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