Under the Spotlight: The Neill Clerk Take One film-finance partnership

The product: Take One, a film-financing partnership open to the public, sponsored by Neill Clerk Capital.

The deal: Take advantage of generous tax reliefs on risky film investments by putting in at least pounds 10,000 before the closing date, 20 February. Money is tied up until July 2000 at the earliest. If, and only if, all goes well, higher-rate taxpayers can hope for returns of 25 per cent a year.

Plus points: Film finance can be spectacularly rewarding, with Polygram estimated to have made more than 30-times its outlay on The Full Monty. Risks are horrendous: turkeys such as Resolution or Hudson Hawk have seen investors lose almost everything.

Neill Clerk has limited the downside with a combination of tax reliefs and "pre-sales". A higher-rate taxpayer who puts in pounds 6,000 is, in effect, investing around pounds 10,000 because of 40 per cent tax relief. Neill Clerk will only invest in a film if 60 per cent of it is "pre-bought" (paid for in advance of production) by a TV company seeking to fill its schedules. If the film bombs, it is the Exchequer and the TV company, much more than the investor, that have lost money.

To further reduce risk, "Take One" films can only be TV documentaries.

Drawbacks and risks: Not all of the investment is tax-relievable. So higher-rate taxpayers may not only make nothing, they may also lose money.

The investment is realised only by selling rights to the documentaries. Profits could exceed investment in a short time - but they might not.

If new deals for films dry up, then the money invested may have nowhere to go. It has to be spent by July 2000 or the tax reliefs may disappear.

Verdict: The best way so far to invest in film.

Marks out of five: Three and a half.

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