SCREEN FILM SUMMIT: Financing film projects in the UK are increasingly challenging as the struggle to turn a profit becomes harder, according to funding experts.
Speaking at the Screen Film Summit at the BFI Southbank, Ingenious Investments director Nik Bower pointed to profitability statistics highlighted by the BFI earlier in the day.
“The landscape for private equity in the UK for film is very challenged, partly because of those profitability statistics,” said Bower.
“The UK may the third largest territory for film but it is still a lot smaller than the States. Theatrical rental is particularly lower here than the rest of the world so it makes it really hard to make films profitable in the UK.”
Bower said that globally more films fail than succeed and addressed why people invest in films that are more likely than not to lose money.
“They dream,” he said of investors. “They hope their film will make money and that does happen. If you invest over a portfolio you can be a dreamer with some hope of success in that the successful films can pay for the unsuccessful ones.”
Shoebox Films’ Paul Webster, who has produced films such as Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Locke, acknowledged that “it’s pretty tough” financing features in the UK.
“It’s a very challenging market right now, unless you hit the sweet spot,” he said.
“There are shining lights out there like Philomena, which is playing into the growing grey pound audience.
“There’s an audience which, in terms of cinema, is growing and being served by the slow proliferation of classy, culture-based houses such as the recent opening of the small twin cinema in Barnes. That’s a 130-seat cinema.
“Showing Philomena in its second week, it was the seventh highest grossing screen in the country, which is indicative of audience demand for kind of films that British filmmakers can and do excel at.”
Jenna Sequin, director of media lending at Aver Media Finance, talked about what makes her “eyes light up” when considering projects.
“A producer with a track record and experience is one,” she said.
“We like to see partners like the BFI and Screen Yorkshire because those other partners can help us all. It’s a difficult proposition to bring film from just a script all the way up to my most exciting point – the loan gets repaid. “
She also acknowledged a tough market, not just in the UK but internationally.
“It’s depressed,” she said of the international market. “The big buyers we could rely on to really break the back on the gap are just not there anymore even with great talent. What we used to think of as slum dunks are no longer there.
“Gap is a crystal ball and it’s gazing into the future a year from now. Considering there are so many changes in the international market, that guess is getting tougher so those who are trying to provide funds on that guess, working with a great sales agent, the risk we are willing to take is going to be reduced.”