Protagonist Raises Game With New Fund

EXCLUSIVE: The sales agent has closed a multi-million dollar facility it wants to use for bigger films. Protagonist can use the money for either minimum guarantees or development funding. It’s already eyeing one ambitious yet-to-be-announced Film4 project. Protagonist was set up in January 2008 to sell films backed by Film4, Vertigo Films and financier Ingenious.

Broadly speaking, Protagonist handles two or three films a year from Film4. At the moment it is selling Submarine, currently in post-production, and Tyrannosaur, the directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine.

Its slate includes Bel Ami, starring Robert Pattinson, which came through its relationship with Ingenious and executive producer American Idol creator Simon Fuller. Bel Ami has sold everywhere apart from North America, Spain and Japan. Ingenious, co-financier of Avatar, is financing fewer independent films these days. Partly this is because the way UK tax rules work means that investors have to spend a minimum 10 hours a week producing projects. Roberts says Protagonist can still take films to Ingenious to cash-flow pre-sales though.

And it has just taken on Snowtown, the grisly true story of a serial killing family, which starts filming in Australia this summer. This is a co-production between Warp X Australia – the Oz offshoot of the UK label — and Screen Australia.

Roberts says: “There are too many sales agents chasing too few projects. The hardest thing about establishing a new company such as Protagonist is establishing your reputation with banks.”

On the Vertigo side, it is starting pre-sales on its Streetdance 3D sequel. The first Streetdance 3D film has been a hit across Europe, but still hasn’t closed that US deal. I suspect that its edgy UK grime and drum & bass soundtrack – plus Hollywood being rather good at making its own dance movies – makes Streetdance a tough sell.

But the most intriguing title sounds like Vertigo’s micro-budget Monsters, which Magnet Releasing picked up US distribution rights for hours after a SXSW midnight screening. Every other major territory has sold. Vertigo is releasing Monsters here in September, although an exact date still has to be fixed. Monsters follows two backpackers trying to make their way across an alien-infested Mexico. Protagonist is pitching it as “Lost In Translation meets Cloverfield.” The mind boggles. Anyway, here’s a clip:

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