It is a timely moment for a pilot Production Finance Market (PFM, October 22-23). The event, backed by Film London in association with the London Film Festival, comes when the UK - thanks to the end of the sale-and-leaseback era, the new UK tax credits and the strong pound - is no longer an especially desirable co-production partner. It is now becoming harder than ever for producers to finance mid-level projects.
"It's a very difficult time in the UK independent production market," says Angus Finney, the project manager of the new initiative. "It's extremely hard to close financing on films budgeted around $3m-$6m." Sometimes, Finney suggests, "the slightly larger-budget films with elements that attract the top end of financing" are easier to put together than low to mid-budget projects.
Despite the tough financial climate, some illustrious names are attending the PFM, where 80 or so new projects will be presented to around 60 financiers. Focus Features, Paramount, Pathe, The Weinstein Company and StudioCanal will attend, as will private-equity hedge funds and banks including Rand Merchant Bank, IDB, CIT, Deutsche Bank, Natixis and Merrill Lynch. Meanwhile, financiers such as Aramid Capital, Future Films, Newbridge Film Capital, CinemaNX and Cedar Lane Asset Management will also attend.
"The PFM will hopefully become a tool that helps bring a level of access and sophistication to the UK production market that perhaps at times has been lacking," Finney says. He adds this is not a co-production market along the lines of Rotterdam's CineMart, where attendees include broadcasters and public funders.
"Film London felt there was an opportunity to look towards a harder, more commercial area of the film financing market," says Finney. "I was directed by Film London to get a more commercial range of financiers to introduce into the UK market."
Finney and his team received around $850m worth of production applications. Of these, $500m worth of projects have been accepted, including slates and individual projects. The average budget for these is $7m-$8m.
"This is not a development market with projects that are at too early a stage to assess," says Finney. "A lot of financiers don't want to take meetings until a project has the ability to be assessed in terms of its value."
There will be 11 new producers participating, chosen through a New Producer Training Scheme backed by Skillset.
Most of the projects (around 80%) are British, but Finney insists the PFM is not "a closed shop".
The LFF's Sandra Hebron has high hopes for the new two-day market to attract production finance to British projects.
"In the long term, what would be ideal would be if - in two or three years' time - we are seeing films come through into the festival that had their birth in the PFM," she says.