Originally published in Blue Skies, February/March 2012

Ben Tustin, Co-Chairman, Guernsey Film, looks at what the organisation can provide in terms of financial structuring solutions for films.

At the end of last year Guernsey Film gave a presentation locally about who we are, what we do and what we are seeking to achieve. We were also delighted to be able to announce that the very popular book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, is set to be made into a movie by Fox Studios. They are considering calling it Guernsey, have lined up Kenneth Branagh as director, an Oscar-winning actress has been linked with the lead role and the Island is also set to be the primary location for much of the filming. Therefore, it is rather ironic that one of my main messages to the audience at the presentation was that in fact our group is not principally focused on persuading more studios to shoot their films in Guernsey.

Around two years ago Guernsey's Commerce and Employment Department began talking to members of the local community about ways in which we can diversify our economy and particularly through the establishment of a Guernsey film industry. Of course, the Isle of Man has already gone down this road, with purpose-built studios and the offer of VAT credits. Yet in Guernsey there is less space for visiting film crews, studios would require significant investment and as there is no VAT (or any corporate tax), we cannot offer fiscal credits.

However, within Guernsey there is significant expertise in providing financial structuring solutions for films. Therefore, around 18 months ago, with the encouragement of the Department, we created Guernsey Film. The not-for-profit organisation is made up of a series of individuals from different firms who have expertise across the various potential financial aspects of making a film, including banking, investment, funds, insurance, intellectual property, law, tax and IT.

Yes, we are all individuals, we each have to be accountable to our own firms and, in some cases, we may be direct competitors but we have decided to work together for the greater good. Indeed, at a very early stage, we decided that we would emphasise teamwork by having myself, Director at Marlborough, and Richard Garrod, Director at Confiance, as Co-Chairmen. I have been involved in the financial structuring of many films, Richard has extensive experience in this area from his time at Mazars and others in the group, such as David Sheil from Alternative Risk Management (ARM), who also presented with us, also have a strong pedigree in film finance. We are pooling resources so that we can promote Guernsey as a one-stop shop for film finance structuring.

Of course, a common misconception is that we can provide funding for films and as such, we receive any number of scripts from writers or producers who are looking to turn ideas into the next box office hit. We don't specialise in funding films but we can provide advice on the next steps that need to be taken and which will mean that the project is more likely to succeed than fail in raising finance. The aim is that if the pieces of the jigsaw do fall into place then our initial work will help drive business to Guernsey when financial structuring arrangements are required.

Guernsey Film was launched to the wider world at a seminar in London during September 2010. The event – staged with the assistance of Guernsey Finance, the promotional agency for the Island's finance industry -- was attended by more than 70 members of the film community including producers, directors and media/entertainment lawyers, accountants and tax advisers. This was a first step in terms of putting Guernsey on the map for these key decision makers and we are now looking to provide a further taste of what Guernsey can offer during 2012.

Our primary goal is attracting film finance structuring business to the Island and not persuading more studios to shoot their films in Guernsey. Make no mistake though, we are delighted with the progress being made towards turning The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society into a Guernsey success story at the box office. If it is shot in Guernsey then there will be significant benefits from both the filming and the publicity for the Island, in particular tourism, and therefore the Commerce and Employment Department is right to give the project its full support.

We are very much aware that in order to win the right for the film to be shot in Guernsey, as a community we will need to pull out all the stops to make it economically viable in comparison with our competitors. However, I am hopeful that together we can make this happen and thereby provide a huge boost to the Guernsey Film initiative, which also includes a future Guernsey Film Festival of international appeal.

For more information about Guernsey's finance industry please visit www.guernseyfinance.com.

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