UK-based Film And Music Entertainment (F&ME) has created a new $1m development fund, backed by private equity, EU MEDIA support and in-house financing, and is initially backing a slate of five projects for 2008.

F&ME's Mike Downey is in early development with F&ME chairman Stephen Daldry on a Charles Darwin biopic and epic adventure based on the Voyage of the Beagle. The pair are scouting for writers now on F&ME's largest film to date.

Films closer to production are led by $3.9m urban morality fable The Enemy (with Pathe and David Marlow's Silverlight Media) written by graphic novelist Peter Milligan, and directed by Keith English.

Other projects are Jesus Christ Airlines, written by Iceland's Jon Atli Jonasson about Father Lochlan O'Neill and his aid missions during the Biafran war.

Paul Provenza, who directed The Aristocrats, is working with Dan Pasternak to write US dystopian comedy The Laughter Clinic, to be directed by Scenes Of A Sexual Nature's Ed Blum.

And Eicke Bettinga's debut feature Untitled Stasi Project will be lead-produced by Zorana Piggott of 011 Productions.

'One of the advantages of being prolific is that our development funding is constantly coming back to us and usually with a 50 per cent premium,' Downey said. 'We have pieced together a rolling fund that works both for us and for our private investors, who, at the end of the development period also have the opportunity to come in on the financing of the film itself, roll over the development money into our next slate, or cash in.'

F&ME's development roster also includes Elmyr de Hory story FAKE!, for which Clifford Irving has delivered a new draft.

F&ME has this week finished three US shoots as of this week: The Turtle's Song wrapped in Florida on February 5 (Sola Media has closed deals with Polyband in Germany, Ascot Elite in Switzerland, and S2 in Spain), Carrie Fisher-starring White Lightnin' wrapped in West Virginia on February 6 (Lumina has already done a UK deal with Momentum), and Croatian director Goran Rusinovic's Buick Rivera wrapped in North Dakota on February 1 (Bavaria is selling).

F&ME's Sam Taylor noted that White Lightnin' may have to go back for quick second-unit work in March due to weather. 'We have managed to combine a US shoot with European public funding, taking advantage of the UK tax credit and shooting many of our interiors in Croatia,' she said.

At EFM, F&ME's also has the international market premiere of animated Quest For A Heart. The voice cast includes Mackenzie Crook and Lisa Stanfield.

In addition to the new development fund, F&ME's Downey and Taylor said they planned to announce more new funding initiatives in Cannes.