8 films bask in Limelight

London fund earmarks $51 mil

Organizers behind the new film-financing outfit Limelight Fund, which is able to front tax credit cash on a slate of movies collectively budgeted at as much as £200 million ($401.2 million), said Tuesday that they already have handpicked a slate of eight movies with budgets totaling £25.1 million ($51 million).

David Parfitt, an Oscar winner for "Shakespeare in Love," has teamed with fellow producer Christopher Figg and lawyer Michael Henry to launch the fund, and the initial slate of projects includes one from Parfitt and one from Figg (HR 5/1).

The Limelight Fund will invest in Parfitt's £5 million ($10 million) "Bunch of Amateurs." Andy Cadiff will direct from a script co-written by writer-broadcaster Ian Hislop and comedy writer Nick Newman. Cadiff most recently directed "Chasing Liberty," which Parfitt produced for Warner Bros. Pictures.

At the discreet launch of the Limelight Fund held in a central London hotel Tuesday, Parfitt said casting was being finalized on "Amateurs" and that the fund cash will be used to bankroll the British tax credit to the tune of about 14% of the budget.

Figg also has been allocated Limelight backing for the tax credit on his upcoming movie "Finding Bin Laden," which carries a budget of £3.4 million ($6.8 million).

Other film producers with projects on the Limelight slate include former Ken Loach producing partner Sally Hibbin, Keith Evans ("Green Street") and Stephen Evans ("The Madness of King George").

Evans has secured backing for his £4.5 million ($9 million)-budgeted project "School For Lovers," which is based on Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutti."

Lawyer and financier Henry set out in detail just how the fund will be used and what it will be used for.

Breaking it down, producers successfully applying for funding will get cash to bankroll the portion of the movie's production budget funded by tax credits. The fund will give as much as 95% of that amount and retain 5% to allocate back to the producer for development of the next project on completion. Producers also have the option of bankrolling distribution costs up front.

Henry said that the Limelight Fund quickly raised £40 million ($80 million) — which equates to the ability to fund the tax credit on a slate of films with budgets totaling £200 million — and "has had to turn investment away."

The trio also were at pains to highlight that the investment plan has been rubber-stamped by the Government's Inland Revenue as a legitimate investment vehicle. The Limelight Fund is initiated by Limelight VCT Plc., the only venture capital trust investing in films listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Development loans on projects that are successfully put into production will be "rolled over" to provide development finance for the producer's subsequent project, the founders added.

Said Parfitt: "Limelight is a private industry-led initiative that offers producers film finance on terms that are significantly better than those which are available in the conventional film finance market."

Added Figg: "It has already raised a substantial amount of production finance, without any publicity, and offers British film producers a sustainable source of finance at significant savings over conventional film finance terms. Limelight deserves the support of the entire British film industry."
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