Film investment can go nowhere, adviser cautions

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The Independent Online
INVESTORS in a new Business Expansion Scheme are being offered the chance to appear in a film alongside actors Michael Praed and Sylvia Syms. But what this kind of BES holds out in terms of fun, it generally lacks in security.

People investing in The Big Nowhere may appear in crowd scenes as extras in this comedy film about a bridegroom who, after a stag night, finds himself stranded, naked and penniless, on a remote Scottish island.

Gouldens, the firm of solicitors, is acting as adviser to the BES scheme, as it did for the successful BES scheme that produced the film Leon the Pig Farmer. The film won the International Critics' Prize at the Venice Film Festival and the Best First Film prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival last year.

Gouldens is also involved in the BES film project Seaview Knights, which is to star Anita Dobson, James Bolam and MP Ken Livingstone in a tale of King Arthur reawakening in Blackpool to find Britain ruled by a grey, cricket-crazy knight. Investors will be invited to the film's premiere, scheduled for the autumn. (Its producers are also looking for extras in a crowd scene in July. They will be filmed in Hyde Park as Mr Livingstone mounts a soap box at Speakers' Corner to make a speech about transport.

Both schemes have made efforts to reduce the risk for potential investors. Seaview Knights needs to raise pounds 125,000 from BES investors, who are being asked to put in at least pounds 500 each. Even the cast and crew will not be paid until the investors have been given back their initial investment and a 10 per cent profit on top.

Cinema projects have joined hotels, farms, wine-makers and estate agencies as fashionable investments in the BES sector. Another area in vogue is pubs and brewing, where Smiles Traditional Inns is trying to raise pounds 750,000 to buy up to eight freehold pubs. The Smiles Brewing Company, based in Bristol, has an option to buy the pubs in the future for a price that will give each investor in the higher tax bracket an annualised return of 24 per cent.

Anthony Yadgaroff at Allenbridge Group, a BES adviser, is not enthusiastic about the fun side of the BES sector. He said: 'The fun element does seem to add a distinctive flavour but they really are at the risky end of the investment spectrum. They are only for the adventurous and the aficionados.'

Details of The Big Nowhere and Seaview Knights from Chris Parkinson of Gouldens on 071-583 7777. Details of Smiles from sponsor Rowan Dartington on (0272) 213206.

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