Telefilm Canada Launches $5 Million Private Film Fund

The move comes as state support for local filmmakers wanes and indie producers turn to angel investors to get their passion projects made as business opportunities.

OTTAWA - As Telefilm Canada urges Canadian film producers to chase foreign coin at international festivals and markets, the government financier has launched a $5 million private film fund back home.

With the Prime Time conference in Ottawa winding down Friday, indie producers received news of the public/private partnership backed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The plan is to rope in private investors, especially from the corporate realm who are more used to sponsoring Canadian film festivals than betting on local movies for a possible pay-out.

Telefilm Canada executive director Carolle Brabant told the conference the new private fund to leverage public film subsidies comes as taxpayer support for local film is under threat from pending government cutbacks.

“Our current environment of economic restraint and limited public resources requires us to embrace innovation in our funding approach,” Brabant said during a morning keynote speech.

Telefilm Canada is already Canada’s largest film financier, investing around $100 million annually in a domestic film industry that remains highly dependent on tax credits and cultural subsidies.

Canadian movies, which face endless competition with Hollywood tentpoles at the multiplex, have rarely been seen as a business opportunity for venture capitalists and other local investors.

But the launch of the new private fund is evidence Telefilm is turning the tide.

The government financier points to success attracting more private coin for local films that, when combined  with foreign co-production dollars, last year accounted for 26 percent of total film production budgets.

That private financing allowed Telefilm to invest in five more films in fiscal 2011.

And Canadian indie producers, no longer looking soley to Telefilm and other government patrons to get their films made, are instead tapping private equity outside of the major financial markets.

Matt Wiele, an executive producer with indie film producer Foresight Features, raised $600,000 in private equity with an offering memorandum to shoot two genre pictures, Monster Brawl and Exit Humanity.

“It’s angel investors. It’s people blindly investing, possibly getting an executive producer credit and walking a red carpet,” he said of the fund-raising exercise.

Other indie producers are working outside the state-sponsored system are similarly turning to private investors as start-up entrepreneurs to get their films made.

Casey Walker recently produced his first feature, the $2 million genre picture A Little Bit Zombie, by in part crowdsourcing through his website

He only raised $84,450 via his website. But more importantly his future audience for the zombie pic had a chance to become early investors and evangelists, he insisted.

“The base of our success is we started an audience for a project well, well, well before the film was made,” Walker told a Prime Time panel on tapping private equity financing.

The annual gathering of Canadian indie producers wrapped Friday in Ottawa.