UK production company WarpFilms has opened its new low-budget division Warp X, part of the new low-budgetfilm scheme started by the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund and FilmFour, with funding from regional screen agencies EMMedia and Screen Yorkshire, and support from distributor Optimum Releasing.(Michael Kuhn's Qwerty Films is also working with the scheme and will establishits own low-budget arm independently of Warp.)

WarpX has financing of $7.9m (£4.5m) to finance its slate of seven or eightfeatures over the next three years. Warp Film's head, Mark Herbert says thecurrent plan is to make three films in the $790,000-$877,000 (£450,000-£500,000)range (with the three likely be made back to back for more cost efficiencies),and another four (or potentially five) up to $1.3m (£750,000).

PaulTrijbits, head of the Film Council's New Cinema Fund,said that the scheme "in essence creates a possibility for a viable long-termlow-budget studio set-up."

Herbertand former FilmFour Lab head Robin Gutch are serving as joint managing directors of Warp X;Herbert will split his time with Warp Films. Caroline Cooper Charles, producerat Lifesize Pictures who formerly ran the UK FilmCouncil's shorts slate, will serve as head of creative development while formerWarp Films' former head of business services Barry Ryan will move over to WarpX full-time to serve as head of production. Mary Burke will be Warp X'sdevelopment producer. The company will be based in Sheffield with offices in London and Nottingham.

Herbertsays even the term "low-budget" has changed since he got into film producingabout five years ago. "There's a shift in the market and the way people aremaking films now," he says. "Low budget used to mean $4.4m-$5.3m (£2.5m-£3m),and now you can make that same kind of film for $1.3m (£750,000)."

Herbertsays that Warp X wants to have its first project shooting this summer, whichwill mean it will be greenlit by May. Projects areexpected to be developed for an average of six weeks, usually shoot in aboutfour weeks, followed by four months of post - meaning only seven months from greenlight to delivery to the distributor. Herbert hasexperience with working under the gun - he produced Shane Meadows' acclaimed Dead Man's Shoes, which shot for justover three weeks on film, not digital.

CooperCharles says that Warp X will work with both "new and established filmmakers." Applicantsshouldn't be completely raw talents. "We have to look for talent that iscapable now of making a feature," Cooper Charles says. "If there are people whowe think are interesting but not ready we can track them so that we can get amore diverse range of voices on the screen in the long term."

Theyhope to work with talent from a range of backgrounds. "We are activelytargeting to make the slate as diverse as possible, reflecting multi-racial Britain," Gutchsays.

"Thisis about low-budget films that are market orientated and can be original,rather than just looking like cut-price studio films," Gutchsays. He says that many of the projects will be genre films, but "with a realoriginality about them."

WarpX will obviously have ties to Warp Films, the film production and DVDdistribution arm that Warp Records established in 2001. Herbert says thecompanies will have a "fluid" relationship and can share overhead. Any projectsthat come to Warp Films that can be made for under £1m will be considered firstfor Warp X. Yet Warp Films canpotentially take on projects submitted to Warp X.

Theone-stop aspect of Warp X's set-up - from initial development through torelease -- is particularly unique, says Trijbits."Nurturing filmmakers and getting their films to audiences needs so much morethan just finance and that's where Warp X's approach to this project isinnovative and exciting," he says.

CooperCharles notes that having a distributor on board at early stages will be vital."Optimum are key from the beginning," she says. "Theycan give us the benefit of their experience in terms of what is and isn't goingto work for the market."

Herbertthinks the scheme's financial arrangement is a good deal for the talent involved.Grosses, after deductions of distributors and salesagent's fees and expenses, will be split 50% to financiers, 25% as reinvestmentin to the scheme and Warp X, and 25% to talent (including writers, directors,producers, actors, and crew). "The talentcan genuinely see that there's money coming back," he says.

Thefinancial structure should also help to build the business for young producers."We don't just want to encourage new directors and writers, we want toencourage new producers," Herbert says.

Asidefrom Warp X, Warp Films is working on the DVD release of a short film made withBritish buzz band the Arctic Monkeys, in post-production on Shane Meadows'skinhead drama This is England, indevelopment with Lynne Ramsay on her next film to hopefully shoot in latesummer, and developing other film and TV ideas.

Filmseligible for the scheme will be English-language and British as defined by theDepartment of Culture, Media & Sport's new cultural test, which is flexibleenough to sometimes allow for foreign filmmakers shooting in the UK or UK film-makers shootingabroad.

WarpX has now launched its website (, which has more informationabout the scheme and how to submit projects for consideration. The studio willlaunch officially on March 23 with a Sheffield event.

Formore on Warp X, see this week's Screen International.