The Fyzz Facility’s Robert Jones and Wayne Marc Godfrey open up to Andreas Wiseman about their thriving production and finance company.
London and Los Angeles-based production and finance outfit The Fyzz Facility, run by UK producers Robert Jones and Wayne Marc Godfrey, has backed 50 films to the tune of $40m since opening for business four years ago.
And despite all those credits, and the duo’s years in the business, they are still motivated by new discoveries.
“I like to think you keep learning new things, whether it’s being involved across financing by raising money through an SEIS scheme or being involved in mobile app opportunities,” says Jones. “Both things I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing five to 10 years ago.”
He adds: “It’s about working with people you like and keeping things interesting. The business is ever changing. It’d be dangerous to set a course and not divert because the business is a lot bigger than any individual. You have to keep your finger near the pulse and be responsive to trends.”
The company invests in diverse films through a range of finance including development, bridging, senior debt, tax credit and gap funding. These films include Toronto 2014 drama Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston; UK comedy The Hooligan Factory from Nick Nevern and Jason Maza; and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming thriller Silence, set to star Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, which will mark the company’s fourth collaboration with US powerhouse Emmett/Furla Films.
A smart partnership
Former UK Film Council executive Jones, exec producer of The Usual Suspects and Gosford Park, initially met former Goldcrest Films exec Godfrey in 2010 through mutual contact David Schwimmer at the after-party for Run, Fat Boy, Run, which Jones produced.
‘We wanted to have a small company that would be very light on its feet’
Robert Jones, The Fyzz Facility
“It was Cannes the next summer that we happened to be sitting next to each other and we got chatting and I was telling Robert what I was doing,” says Godfrey.
“I was doing very small lending at the time but it felt like we both had an appetite to grow. With Robert’s years of experience and relationships, it felt like we had good synergy and complementary skills to combine what we were doing. The mission was to go out and find good films from good producers and sales agents that required a piece of the financing.”
Nimbleness was key for the duo from the outset. “We wanted to create something relatively simple that wouldn’t require a huge number of people or large overheads,” says Jones. “We tried to avoid complex tax mechanisms. You look at the size of the funds that are still going and the size of the funds at that time; they had to have a lot of people and large overheads.
“What we wanted to do was have a small company that would be very light on its feet and that could respond quickly to projects it received while being flexible and pragmatic.”
The duo engaged investors through a series of presentations about the film business and investment. “Of course, film investment is traditionally looked at as high risk and emotionally driven but we showed people where we thought it could work for them,” says Jones. “We grew a pool of investors that understand how we work and that when we bring an opportunity to them it qualifies with the criteria we’ve already set and we live by.”
Simplicity and transparency are key to ensuring that trust.
“It’s about keeping deals relatively simple by having a small team and ensuring that once we’re involved we respond quickly and help the films close. We’re very upfront. We don’t sit on a pile of cash; what we have is a pool of educated investors,” adds Godfrey.
Recent investments include Robert De Niro heist thriller Bus 657 (on which Fyzz is bringing close to one-third of the film’s finance); Kurt Russell cowboy epic Bone Tomahawk; Tommy Wirkola’s Norwegian comedy-horror Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead; and Talulah Riley’s directorial debut Scottish Mussel, currently shooting in Scotland.
A growing focus for Fyzz will be the development and backing of in-house UK productions. These include former Screen Star of Tomorrow Stephen Fingleton’s Blacklist thriller The Survivalist, now in post-production; upcoming drama A Patch Of Fog; thriller The Chinaman, David Marconi’s adaptation of Stephen Leather’s well-received novel; and Alleycats, a UK thriller set in the world of illegal cycle racing.
That said, both execs continue to produce separately: Jones recently produced Danny Boyle’s TV series Babylon and has developments with Film4.
Also important to the company’s next stage is Los Angeles expansion. The company now has nine full-time staff but will add at least one body on the ground in Los Angeles. “More than 50% of our product flow is coming from America,” says Godfrey. “We’ve got to have a presence there and we’ve got to have more feet on the ground driving that bit forward.”