Prime Focus Pulls Into China; UK May Shore Up VFX Industry
The gloomy VFX scene saw a few bright spots in the international market today. In the UK, the 2013 budget was unveiled and along with it, news that the Treasury will launch a public consultation on options to provide further support for the VFX industry via the tax system. In total, the creative industries received an extra £25M to help boost economic growth. Meanwhile, VFX specialist Prime Focus said it is setting up a Chinese joint venture with Hong Kong–based private equity group AID Partners and local partner Zhejiang Jingqi Wenhua Chuanbo Company. Prime Focus, which is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and has offices in the U.S., Canada, the UK and India, will invest $3M in the new operation which will provide services including 2D/3D conversion, VFX and post-production services on the mainland and in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. At the same time, AID, whose investments include Legendary Pictures and HMV Asia, has invested $10M in Prime Focus’ Netherlands subsidiary, Prime Focus World NV. The group’s credits include Shrek, Transformers 3, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Smurfs and Men In Black 3.

Universal, Vertigo Rock On Stone Roses Pic
Universal Pictures UK – the home entertainment division of Universal Pictures International Entertainment – has acquired UK and Irish rights to Mat Whitecross’ Spike Island. The company will join forces with Vertigo Films for the summer 2013 theatrical release geared to coincide with tour dates of the film’s subject the Stone Roses. Spike Island, which was originally set to go out via troubled UK indie, Revolver, is a coming-of-age story set against a legendary Stone Roses concert at Spike Island in 1990. Elliott Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, Jordan Murphy, Adam Long, Oliver Heald, Emilia Clarke and Lesley Manville star in the film that’s produced by Fiona Neilson and Esther Douglas.

Shine Group Hires Gary Carter, Dragonfly Brings On Mark Raphael
Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group has named Gary Carter to the newly created role of chairman of Northern Europe and ancillary division Shine 360°. The former FremantleMedia Group COO will start on June 1 and oversee the creative and operational functions of Shine Germany, and the Nordic regions’ Metronome group of production companies. He’ll also act as sounding board for Shine 360°. In other Shine news, its Dragonfly Film and Television has appointed Mark Raphael as creative director. The exec is currently Channel 4’s commissioning editor for documentaries and will replace Simon Dickson who became managing director of the company last year. Dragonfly makes factual series like One Born Every Minute along with single documentaries like The Plane Crash. Raphael starts in May.

Melanie Brown Caught in Tug Of War Between Oz Networks
America’s Got Talent judge Melanie Brown is at the center of a legal battle between Australia’s Nine and Seven networks. The former Spice Girl “Mel B” was a judge on Seven’s The X Factor last year but elected not to continue this year, citing family reasons. Last week Nine named Brown as one of the judges on Australia’s Got Talent, which it acquired after Seven dropped the show last year. Seven went to the NSW Supreme Court, which issued temporary orders preventing Brown from performing anywhere other than Seven before January 31, 2014. A Nine spokesperson said, “We are expecting her to be on the judging panel for Australia’s Got Talent in 2013 and feel confident she will be there.” The Court is due to hold further hearings March 25. – Don Groves

‘Sherlock’ Is Elementary For Royal Television Society
The UK’s Royal Television Society handed out its 2012 awards last night in London. Notable wins went to Steven Moffat for best drama writing on Sherlock which was also named best drama series. HBO’s Girls was the top international show and Olivia Colman and Sean Bean won prizes for their acting in BBC One’s Accused II. Danny Boyle took a Judges’ prize for his London Olympics Opening Ceremony which also gave the BBC top honors for a live event. A full list of winners is here.

‘Orthodox’ Short Becomes Indie Feature
Zeitgeist Films is entering principal photography on David Leon’s feature adaptation of his short film, Orthodox. Boardwalk Empire’s Stephen Graham stars with Michael Smiley, Christopher Fairbank and Giacomo Manici. Graham is also exec producer with Vicky Cristina Barcelona’s Gareth Wiley. Daisy Allsop and Leon are producing. The story centers on a man caught between the Orthodox Jewish community and mainstream life. Ingenious Media is backing via its new Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme fund. Leon previously won the Best Narrative Short award at Tribeca for his Man And Boy.

Laurie Holden Caught In ‘Honeytrap’
The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden is lending her zombie cred to UK indie Honeytrap, boarding the film as exec producer. The Bright Pictures and Fierce Productions film is an urban drama set in London that looks at gang culture from the point-of-view of a 15-year-old girl. Rebecca Johnson wrote and is directing the film that’s raising funds on indiegogo. Sarah Sulick, who attended UCLA with Holden, is producing.