UK production and financing group Brass Hat Films is positioning itselfas a major European player, after securing a $200m equity fund from ahigh-net-worth individual in the middle east in addition to its existingin-house equity funds which are now entering their fifth cycle.

London-based Brass Hat, which is run by Nick Hamson, CEO, and LarsSylvest, president, is already two-and-a-half years into a five-year alliancewith Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment whereby Brass Hat has providedover $200m in equity finance to US projects such as Dreamer, Shopgirl and theforthcoming Premonition with Sandra Bullock.

Now, in addition to its relationship with Hyde Park, the company isgenerating its own pictures kicking off with a $100m big-screen version of 70sTV series The Persuaders, acquired and developed by Brass Hat before Hyde Parkcame in as partner. Ben Stiller and Steve Coogan have been mentioned asattachments on the film.

First to go into pre-production in October this year in Germany is Marco Kreuzpaintner's SatanicMill, a $15m English-language film of Otfried Preussler's German bestseller Krabat which Sylvestdescribes as "a darker Harry Potter." It is being co-produced with Munich-basedClaussen & Woebke Filmproduktion.

Hyde Park International will handle international rights on SatanicMill, as it did on Kreuzpaintner's Trade (formerly Welcome ToAmerica) which was co-financed by Brass Hat for producer Roland Emmerich.

The new fund, which will operate in tandem with the existing Brass Hatfunds, will enable Brass Hat to finance five films in the $55m to $85m budgetrange. That fund will be used for the production finance of The Persuaders butit will also be used for Brass Hat's own productions; the company has aninternal development fund as well as a development team.

Brass Hat specifically wants to focus on European-set movies whichappeal to a European audience as well as to the US audience. "They will be funded out of Europeand will not be dependent on domestic distribution," said Sylvest, who stressesthat Brass Hat has a successful relationship with Amritraj.

"There is an increasing divide between European and US tastes and oen ofour goals will be to put our money into productions with three key Europeanbuyers," he added.

"We want to build a Working Title-type operation in Europe," saidHamson. "We raise the money ourselves to control the process and package thefilms worldwide."

"We want to hear from UK and European producers with ambitiousEnglish-language films which will have the scale of US productions," addedSylvest.

Each Brass Hat fund has generated an average of £20 million in pureequity from high net worth individuals. Hamson, Sylvest and Matthew Goldsmithrun Brass Hat Group, which is a wealth management group revolving around threecompanies - Brass Hat Private Clients, Brass Hat Financial and Brass HatFilms.