Producers reliant on boutique investors

Investing in film is considered to be risky business as few are financially successful. But the backers of multiple Oscar-winning The King’s Speech picked well – the film was made for £9m but earnt more than £250m globally.

It was part-funded by Prescience, a specialist financing company set up in 2005 which has raised more than £250m for titles ranging from St Trinian’s 2 to Terry Gilliam’s Tideland.

“We get people who come to us as first time producers with no cast and they want $15m. That’s not going to happen,” says Paul Brett, director of Prescience.

“Any film can be financed; it is about doing it for the right budget. As long as you are realistic you can make a film digitally for a reasonable figure and hopefully prove yourself.” Prescience invested $15m in The King’s Speech.

The independent film industry in the UK has been hard hit as its traditional sources of funding – specialist banks, hedge funds and wealthy individuals – have turned away.

Financing used to be dominated by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, but they have been replaced by a handful of boutique players including Prescience, Ingenious Media, Limelight and Aramid Capital.

“It is harder than it has ever been to get finance. We now have a two-tier film industry. The service sector has done incredibly well thanks to the UK film tax credit, which has incentivised big US movies to come here and spend a lot on film-making activity,” says James Clayton, chief executive of Ingenious Media. “But if you are a producer, life has never been harder. Banks have withdrawn and risk capital is hard to come by.”

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