The Film Department, the new independent finance, production and international sales company formed by Mark Gill and Neil Sacker, has raised $200m in financing and hopes to unveil its first projects within the next few weeks.

Gill and Sacker said the financing should also allow them to conclude negotiations with an international sales chief who will introduce the projects to buyers at Toronto and the AFM.

When revolved and re-invested, the $200m will fund The Film Department's plan to make $725m worth of films over the next five years. According to a statement, the company aims to fully finance six 'star-driven, commercial pictures' a year, budgeted between $10m and $35m.

The bulk of the $200m is debt financing, the rest being mezzanine financing and equity. GE Capital Markets arranged the senior debt and mezzanine financing and the company's equity investors include Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim, chairman of Middle East satellite broadcaster MBC Group; frequent film company investor Zeid Masri; and clothing industry entrepreneur Michael Singer, whose grandfather, says Gill, ran Republic Pictures in the forties.

Gill, the former Warner Independent Pictures and Miramax Films president, and Sacker, former Miramax executive vice president and Yari Film Group COO, believe the time is right for the launch of their venture.

Says Gill: 'There's a perfect storm of favorable conditions for our new business: strong international demand for star-driven, lower-cost, high-quality films; a decrease in North American studio in-house production combined with a substantial increase in distribution capacity; and greater star willingness than ever before to make independent films.'

Sacker says The Film Department 'is set up to achieve the best aspects of independent film-maintaining high creative standards and an ability to greenlight pictures quickly-while avoiding its most common pitfall: inadequate capitalization.'

Sacker suggests that the company is likely to license its films to both independent and studio distributors in the US.

'Our goal,' he says, 'is to maintain the highest creative and artistic standards, stay in that higher $10m-$35m budget range where the films are studio quality - which is critical both for the foreign distributors and domestic - and make sure each film finds a home. Films that are high quality tend to find the right distributor.'

The executives say they plan to make films in genres with worldwide appeal, including thrillers, dramas, comedies, romantic comedies, action and horror films.
They point to the success of films they have shepherded in former jobs - including Crash, The Illusionist, March of the Penguins and Good Night, And Good Luck - claiming that on average those films cost $17m to make and grossed $77m each worldwide.