Film4 funding increased to record $36m; signs Fox Searchlight deal

Film4 has announced a major increase in its funding, which will rise from $22m to $36m (£15m to £25m) for 2016.

The substantial funding increase will also include two major new partnerships: a co-financing deal with Fox Searchlight for In Bruges director Martin McDonagh’s new film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; and a new two-year partnership with Entertainment Film Distributors (EFD) and FP Films, the production company set up by The Inbetweeners creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, for four new comedy feature films.

The funding boost and new partnerships demonstrate the scale of Film4’s future ambitions, and represent a major coup for director of Film4 David Kosse as well as a huge vote of confidence from Channel 4 in his vision for the company’s film division.

The 66% increase puts Film4 – for 2016 at least (the budget may change in 2017) – on a comparable footing to the BFI as the UK’s largest public funding body for film. The BFI’s Film Fund has a budget of around $43m (£30m). BBC Films has a budget of more than $17m (£12m).

Kosse, who assumed the role from Tessa Ross in November 2014, was previously president of international for Universal Pictures and is known to have wanted to apply more commercial acumen to Film4’s slate and output. This represents the most significant step yet in Kosse stamping his vision on the company and its future direction.

Fox Searchlight

Film4’s co-financing partnership with Fox Searchlight on McDonagh’s new film will be on a 50/50 basis. Film4 funded the development of the project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which will go into production in April in North Carolina, with McDonagh’s long-time partners, Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin at Blueprint Pictures, on board to produce.

Fox Searchlight takes worldwide distribution rights, with Film4-parent Channel 4 retaining UK TV rights – a template, the partners say, they will look to continue on further non-exclusive collaborations.

Inbetweeners duo

Film4 developed and financed both The Inbetweeners films with Morris and Beesley, with EFD behind the highly successful UK releases for both. The two films combined grossed $115.6m (£80m) in the UK.

Film4 and EFD will jointly fund the development and production of the four films from Beesley and Morris’s FP Films label. EFD will also distribute in the UK. The slate will be built using home-grown comedy talent although no further details were offered.

Awards titles

The announcements came from Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham and Kosse at an event celebrating the success of Film4-backed films in awards season.

The company received a record 22 BAFTA and 15 Oscar nominations for Film4-backed projects including Room, Carol, Ex Machina, 45 Years, Amy, The Lobster and Second Coming.

Upcoming projects

A long-time supporter of innovative UK and international talent, Film4 has a similarly diverse range of upcoming projects, including the next film from The Selfish Giant director Clio Barnard, Dark River; Bart Layton’s heist drama American Animals (which the company is jointly financing with AI Film); Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years follow-up Lean On Pete; Garth Davis’s Mary Magdalene project; Danny Boyle’s sequel to Trainspotting; and new films from first-time film-makers – Michael Peace’s Beast, Toby MacDonald’s Old Boys, Adam Smith’s Trespass Against Us and Benedict Andrews’ A.

Film4 also has projects in development from several acclaimed UK film-makers including Steve McQueen, Mike Leigh, Lenny Abrahamson, Yorgos Lanthimos and Chris Morris.

Channel 4 chief executive Abraham said: “Channel 4 has played a huge role in backing new and distinctive film talent for three decades and the record awards success this year is testament to the enormous impact Film4 has in the industry.

“We have the ambition for this impact to continue to grow and so I’m delighted that, under David Kosse’s leadership, Film4 will be substantially increasing its funding – which I hope will ensure that we are able to continue to nurture the next generation of film-making talent.”

Kosse said: “I’m tremendously proud of the diversity of the Film4-backed movies nominated for awards – and continuing to support such a wide range of voices is at the heart of my strategy for the future of Film4.

“In an increasingly global and competitive industry, building new and bolder partnerships across both production and distribution will ensure both that Film4 is able to operate as a more self-sufficient part of Channel 4 and that we continue to maintain high levels of funding into the film industry.”

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Film4 funding increased to record $36m; signs Fox Searchlight deal