Info Avenue, an e-commerce design and consulting company whose shareholders include the Itochu trading house and Sun Microsystems, has launched a web-site for raising film finance from film fans.

Called, the site recruits individuals for site-sponsored "support groups" based around specific projects.

The "supporters" purchase membership in return for a list of benefits, including tickets to the finished film and access to a dedicated web-site at which they can receive production updates, e-mail the director and even sign up as extras. then transfers funds raised from the memberships to the production company. The cost of the membership fee varies depending on the production and the membership class, with "gold" members receiving more benefits. Members pay using their credit cards.

The first film to be produced using the scheme will be Takashi's Miike's Tengoku Kara Kita Otokotachi (The Men Who Fell From Heaven). A one-time action specialist, Miike has become a festival favourite for such films as The Bird People In China and Audition.