The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has introduced a three-year $2.4m (NZ$3m) business development scheme aimed at creating more substantial companies and has made the new company Libertine Pictures the first recipient.

The chosen few recipients will use the NZFC funding for development, overheads and travel. The ambition is to award two more companies funding in February 2014.

“We need to foster the development of businesses with the scale and connections to attract more private and overseas investment to New Zealand projects,” said outgoing NZFC chief executive Graeme Mason. “This scheme could be a game-changer.”

Producer Richard Fletcher and one-time Majestic and Intermedia executive Paul Davis are the joint managing directors of Libertine, which officially opens its doors on September 1.

The pair has worked together previously on projects and Fletcher and Libertine’s third key principal, creative director Neil Cross, have been developing adaptations of Cross’s novels and an original screenplay, all of which are in the thriller/horror category. Cross created the crime thriller Luther for the BBC and has writing credits on Doctor Who as well as NBC’s upcoming NBC historical action adventure, Crossbones.

The scheme is for the recipients to empower arms length creators, support them with business knowledge and infrastructure, and produce a mix of wholly and jointly owned output.

“It is a big shift in the nature of the relationship between the NZFC and the industry,” Fletcher, a one-time NZFC business affairs head, told ScreenDaily. “Devolving a large level of control and responsibility, is not something that they have done to this scale before.”

Libertine spent 12 months on planning and submitted a 140-page business plan listing a range of non-exclusive relationships including with UK sales agent Embankment and local distributor Rialto and the filmmakers Cliff Curtis and Ainsley Gardiner of Whenua Film, Trevor Haysom of THE Film, Taika Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley of Defender Films, and others.

“We believe Libertine is unique in that it’s the first time such a grouping of filmmakers have been brought together under one entity and, outside of Sir Peter Jackson’s studio deals, the first time the company has had distribution and international sales arrangements on a company basis rather than just on a project basis,” said Fletcher.

Emily Anderton, who has worked at the UK Film Council, is Libertine’s head of development, and Nadya Kooznetzoff, who has spent a decade in the London publishing scene, is the head of literary acquisitions.

The NZFC has assured the production community that the new scheme will not diminish the funds available for individual projects. The initiative is a throwback to the devolved development and schemes that assisted the growth of South Pacific Pictures, Gibson Group and Wingnut. It also has strong similarities to Australia’s Enterprise Program, which has supported such companies as Hopscotch Features and Matchbox.

The Screen Production and Development Association has given the NZFC its blessing.

Mason takes up a new role as chief executive of Screen Australia in November.