Magazine article Screen International

Martin Carr and Neil Thompson, Formosa Films

Magazine article Screen International

Martin Carr and Neil Thompson, Formosa Films

Article excerpt

The producers talk about their EIS experiences and their busy slate.

The UK Government is expecting a positive decision from the European Commission on state aid approval for reforms to EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) and VCTs (Venture Capital Trusts) by the end of this month (May). It is widely expected that the annual investment limit for qualifying companies under EIS will be raised from £2 million to £5 million.

If and when this happens, one company very well positioned to take advantage will be Formosa Films, run by Martin Carr and Neil Thompson.

Formosa has already been in the EIS business for several years, raising investment for such films as Clubbed and Twenty8k. Now, the company is looking to expand. It has a bulging development slate with films ranging from romcom Top Shelf to suspense thriller Guilty.

As Carr notes, investors in EIS schemes for film haven't always been well treated in the past. "What happens is that filmmakers often get pressured very, very hard by finance houses to push their investment back - so EIS is the first money in and the last money out."

"That's completely unfair," Thompson states. "The model we've always used is our investors completely own all the rights in the films so if the film does fly, they will do really well. There can be nothing more annoying for an EIS investor to invest in a successful film and still only get a tiny bit (of upside)."

On Formosa's gangster pic Clubbed, the investors didn't make big profits. Even so, most were ready to come aboard future projects.

"We are very, very good at communication," Carr says. "We involve people very heavily - they know what is coming. They don't feel like you have vanished....if we make a movie that tanks, because we involve the investors, they'll look at it and say 'You did all you can.' If we make a movie that goes out in every cinema in the UK and they don't get paid, that's the last movie we'll ever make."

The Formosa bosses gave the Clubbed investors "some of our position" in their next film, Twenty8k (due to screen in the market in Cannes where it is being sold by AV Pictures.)

On any given EIS fund set up by Formosa, there are likely to be around 100 investors. Their level of financial commitment varies hugely.

"The minimum you can invest with us is 5K so we have quite a lot of investors who just come in for that. It's really a bit of a punt for them, like backing a horse!" notes Thompson.

These investors are consulted throughout. They're invited to screenings of rough cuts and serve both as de facto coproducers and as a ready-made focus group. "We even had one of our investors who wanted to read the script just before we started pre-production. …

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