Qualified in the UK and California, British media lawyer Simon Horsman has practised his profession on both sides of the Atlantic. And right now, suggests the head of the new Los Angeles office of London-based production and financing company Future Films, the US is the place to be.
Though Future will stay fully active in the UK, 'we see the growth area for this company, at present and for the next few years, being in the US,' says Horsman, who was recruited as CEO of Future Films USA last autumn by Stephen Margolis, founder of the seven-year-old UK company.
The growing allure of the US - for producers and hence for companies such as Future - is partly a result of the tax incentives offered by a growing list of US states. And it is in helping producers utilise those incentives that Future sees its initial opportunity.
'What's happening at the moment is a lot more states are getting into the game, and the states that are already in the game are increasing their incentives,' Horsman says. 'It's almost like they're competing with each other to attract productions.
'The service we offer is to cash-flow the incentives. The thing about these incentives is you only get them once you've spent the money. That's no good to a lot of independent producers who need the cash at the start of principal photography, if not before. We will basically cash-flow the incentives - whether they're rebates or tax credits - and we'll do that on a state-by-state basis, unlike a lot of other film finance companies that tend to focus on one or two states.'
In simple terms, Future makes a loan to a producer, with the state rebate or credit acting as security. The producer thereby gets money up front and Future makes its return on the interest charged on the loan. The company's first loan was to Pierce/Williams Entertainment's Shuttle, a small horror movie shot using the Massachusetts state incentive. Another loan is about to close on a production using the New Mexico rebate and Horsman says two or three loans to projects (including a European co-production) using the Connecticut incentive are in the works.
Meanwhile, Horsman is already looking for ways in which Future - which began as a specialist in UK sale-and-leaseback deals but has since expanded into other areas of finance, as well as production and post-production - can grow its US business.
One might involve the Section 181 US federal tax incentive that has so far proved tricky for producers to utilise. 'We've looked very closely at 181,' Horsman says. 'We think we can see a way forward with it.'
Other expansion moves could put Future Films USA into competition with more traditional US financing operations. 'We've been very inventive in the UK in the kinds of things we've been able to offer since the company's inception,' Horsman asserts. 'The things we are considering here are discounting pre-sales and providing gap. Those are two areas I'm looking to develop.'
Title: CEO, Future Films USA
Experience: Lawyer at London-based international law firm Slaughter and May (1990-93); partner in Los Angeles-based intellectual property and media practice Neff Law Group (since merged with Greenberg Glusker) (1994-2002); vice-president and general counsel for online comparison shopping site PriceGrabber.com (2002-04).