U.S. Buyers Offered P&A Subsidies for U.K. Titles

Nick Cave - P 2012
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Nick Cave - P 2012

The British Film Institute announces three movies looking to ink U.S. distribution deals that will debut at the Sundance Film Festival to benefit from the pilot fund.

LONDON – The British Film Institute is set to pilot a P&A fund to help eligible U.K. films attract U.S. distribution with the plan debuting during the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

The BFI, the U.K.'s largest single movie funding body and one fueled by lottery cash, has a trio of titles currently looking to seal U.S. distribution deals, all of which are to make their world debuts during Sundance.

The three titles traveling to Utah with the BFI's P&A pledge, unspooling across the event's world cinema strand, are Hong Khaou’s Lilting, sold by Protagonist Pictures, which opens Sundance’s World cinema dramatic competition, and two being touted by Hanway Films: Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl and Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s drama-documentary, featuring artist and musician Nick Cave, titled 20,000 Days on Earth.

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The pilot cash pool is initially limited to British films currently without U.S. distribution and with a production budget less than $3.3 million (£2 million).

The BFI will make awards of up to $41,000 (£25,000) per eligible film available to U.S. distributors, to enable them to throw more weight behind the marketing campaigns for the U.S. theatrical rollout and in particular support the promotion of U.K. movie talent stateside.

There are some provisos for U.S. distributors looking to take on the BFI's backing.

American distributors will have three months to ink a deal for any of the three titles from their Sundance debut and will have to pledge to roll out the title in theaters in the U.S., with screenings in a minimum of five of the top 25 EDI-rated U.S. markets within a year of the acquisition.

Applications will also need to be in with the BFI from the U.S. distributor at least 14 weeks before the film’s U.S. release date before drawing down the cash.

The application form will also require the U.S. distributor to set out its marketing and release plan for the film, including the proposed P&A budget, which would take into account the requested award from the BFI in its numbers.

BFI film fund director Ben Roberts said: "We know the U.K. is consistently producing films, which wow audiences and critics at A-list festivals around the world, but in a competitive international market some of these excellent films can nevertheless struggle to secure that all-important US distribution, which can do so much to showcase U.K. talent to cinema audiences and critics in the states. The point of this pilot is to see if we can help to change that."

The BFI cites the U.S. marketplace as "one of the most important markets in the world and with an English-speaking audience, a U.S. sale is one of the most significant sales that a British film can make."

The organization is also quick to point out that such subsidies for U.S. distribution aims "to increase U.K. exports, promote British talent in the U.S. and help level the playing field with international P&A support already attached to local product from countries including France, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Russia and Germany."

Starring Ben Whishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng and Andrew Leung, Lilting is written and directed by U.K.-based Khaou, who was mentored by Michael Winterbottom, and tells the story of a Chinese mother mourning her son’s untimely death and the sudden appearance of a stranger who doesn’t speak her language.

God Help the Girl, written and directed by indie powerhouse Belle & Sebastian singer Murdoch, is billed as a musical about some troubled boys and girls and the music they made and stars Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray.

Directed by Forsyth and Pollard, 20,000 Days on Earth is a docu-drama hybrid and an examination of the artistic process that imagines 24 hours in the life of U.K.-based Aussie singer-songwriter Cave and boasts cameos from Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue.