Australia’s Media Funds Management (MFM) and US company OutSource Media Group (OMG) have formed a partnership to offer Australian and New Zealand films budgeted at A$15-50 million with distribution finance to support a studio style North American release.

MFM managing director James Vernon also says he will be expanding the business into the UK and North America in 2011.

“It (the OMG deal) will make getting finance, rest of world pre-sales and cast that much easier,” Vernon told ScreenDaily. “For a big budget independent movie, the big stumbling block is getting a US theatrical release, while still retaining its independence.”

The number of bigger budget Australian films going into production is rising due to the availability of the 40% producer offset (PO). Cameras rolled on eight films (22% of the total slate) budgeted at more than A$10 million in the 12 months to June 30, according to Screen Australia’s latest research, compared to three (9%) in the previous year and five (13%) in the year before.

Obviously there is much more pressure on films of this size to maximise returns. One such film, the biggest hit of the year and last night’s winner of the IF Awards, Tomorrow, When The War Began, one of the most mainstream Australian independent films of recent years, has sold in 13 territories but not in the US.

OMG won’t just be financing the prints and advertising on selected Australian films but also providing access to relationships; it is in a partnership with Sony for the release of Jay Chandrasekhar’s Shotgun Wedding and with 20th Century Fox for Simon West’s Mariah Mundi & the Midas Box.

MFM is one of several funds that arrived on the scene when the PO was introduced. It provides cashflow for the PO, presales and so on, as well as gap financing. Being able to also offer substantial P&A financing, through OMG, when a film is still in development, is likely to increase its competitiveness — it is no coincidence that the partnership was put in place in time to be announced before the annual Screen Producers Association of Australia conference, that starts tomorrow.

MFM is executive producer on three films with the kind of budgets referred to — Fred Schepisi’s The Eye Of The Storm, The Cup and A Few Best Men — but these deals were done before the new arrangement was in place.