German film fund Apollo Media, launched last November (Screen International, Nov 19, 1999), has unveiled its debut slate which includes new projects from Bruce Beresford, Stephen Cookson, Christine Lahti and Tomy Wigand.

An April start is being slated for Bruce Beresford's long-gestating project, the $12m melodrama Alma - Bride Of The Wind, about composer Gustav Mahler's wife Alma, which Apollo will co-produce with Margit Bimler's Munich-based production outfit Firelight Entertainment and Alma UK. The project, which will shoot at locations in Vienna, Prague and possibly Germany, will also receive backing from the Vienna Film Financing Fund (WFF).

Apollo is also backing Firelight's Mumbo Jumbo, to be directed by Stephen Cookson, which starts shooting Feb 14 in Germany for one week. The film's cast includes pop idol Robbie Williams, teen favourites Jamie Walters and Jennie McCarthy, along with Richard O'Brien, Joss Ackland, Brian Blessed, Sylvester McCoy, John Inman and Terry Gilliam. Some establishing shots were filmed in London in December, and the German shoot will be followed by further filming in the midlands in the UK.

Apollo is also in production with Firelight's My First Mister, directed by Christine Lahti, a co-production with Total Film starring Albert Brooks and Lily Subieski. The project has been shooting in the US since Jan 24 and will move to Germany for post-production.

In addition, Apollo is serving as co-producer on hot German director Tomy Wigand's TV movie Nicht Heulen Husky, starring Heiner Lauterbach and Barbara Rudnik, which is being produced with MTM cineteve and commercial broadcaster ProSieben. The film is due to crank up on location in Canada from the end of February and already has pre-sales concluded with broadcasters in Canada and the US.

According to Apollo financial services expert Frank Huebner, who manages the fund with former Studio Babelsberg executive Karin Stammer: "we exceeded our target of raising DM20m ($10m) [from private German investors] by 20% and managed this in just six weeks".

The first project Apollo supported was the thriller 20:13 - Thou Shalt Not Kill, produced with the UK's Trijbits Productions, Germany's Cologne-Gemini Filmproduktion and US producer/distributor TEAM Communications Group. The first of a planned series of six international TV movies under the label 20:13, Thou Shalt Not Kill was shot in Cologne in November and December under the direction of Canadian John Bradshaw with Thomas Heinze and Natasha Lindinger in the leads. The project also marked the first collaboration between Gemini and TEAM as part of a far-reaching co-production and development accord they signed last autumn.

Huebner explained that the first tranche of Apollo Media's Fund II will probably be launched in March with a slate of concrete projects to raise between DM10m-DM14m ($5m-$7m) from private German investors, while a second tranche in September with a higher DM30m ($15m) volume would be a mix of a "blind pool" and specific projects.