Christopher Mapp, managing director of Australia's Omnilab Group, has much resting on The Bank Job, which opened in the UK on February 28 and in the US on March 7. The film is the biggest and most international of several projects the ambitious company has helped finance in the past year.
The commercial nature of The Bank Job (Jason Statham stars in the old-style British crime comedy), the involvement of director Roger Donaldson and Lionsgate's distribution expertise in the UK and US, prompted Omnilab to co-finance the film's production and, in the US, distribution. Sales agent Arclight Films brought the film to Omnilab, which is expected to announce the Australian distributor shortly.
"A key part of success for us is knowing these films are handled well, from a marketing and PR perspective," says Mapp, explaining why Omnilab is bankrolling the US p&a costs. "Being a key investor in the p&a process gives us another dimension of control over our films having every potential of reaching their target audience.
"We're about story and working with great people. Ours is a long-term strategy. You have to have passion but also the rigour to make astute business decisions."
Omnilab is a family business founded by Mapp's father, Grahame. It is Australia's largest privately owned group of post-production and media service companies, based mainly in Sydney and Melbourne. It employs more than 500 full-time staff, with an annual turnover of more than $94m (a$100m).
"We had a lot of people saying, 'Come on in, we want your money,'" says Mapp of when the company launched its much-vaunted move into international film financing last year.
The company has since teamed up with Australian production outfit Kennedy Miller Mitchell to launch joint venture production outfit Dr D, although it is not yet known whether the company will produce films or be a post and visual-effects supplier.
"Being involved every step of the way can limit your downside," says Mapp. "We're not about rushing money out there but about doing it very strategically."
Mapp says he has been "passionately trying to drive feature films" since Omnilab bought Australian TV production company Ambience Entertainment in 2004. Ambience is now in post on the group's first feature, horror title Dying Breed, which is being handled internationally by Arclight and will be distributed locally with Hoyts and Omnilab.
Other projects in the works at Ambience, under which most of the group's own production will occur, include an adaptation of John Marsden's sci-fi novel Tomorrow, When The War Began, and The Loved Ones, which was voted best un-produced script at Australia's recent Inside Film Awards.
Mapp is fond of saying content may be king but distribution is King Kong. In his home market, he believes Australian films often suffer from poorly resourced marketing. He has been working with creative agency Droga5 on an online-heavy campaign for Dying Breed.
Mapp says Omnilab's base model is a last-in-first-out gap financing approach but each deal is different. Other projects with which Omnilab is involved include true-crime drama How To Change In Nine Weeks starring Guy Pearce, Elise starring Natalie Imbruglia, and Rachel Perkins' musical Bran Nue Day.
CHRISTOPHER MAPP'S CULTURAL LIFE
Favourite recent films Into The Wild, The Departed, Atonement, No Country For Old Men. "I often go to the cinema not knowing what I will see."
Books: Execution: The Discipline Of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and Charles Burck. Biographies of Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson, and the writings of Warren Buffett.
Newspapers: Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age.
Websites: www.asx.com.au (for live trading).
Magazines: Inside Film, Encore, Campaign Brief.