Kessler working on $200mm deal with China Film Group

Entertainment attorney Hal “Corky” Kessler

Entertainment attorney Hal “Corky” Kessler says he’s 60-90 days away from finalizing a deal with Chinese private investors for Father John, the first in a $200 million slate of U.S.-Chinese coproductions.

Kessler says he’s working out the deal in cooperation with the government-backed China Film Group, which manages a $1 billion investment fund for projects with budgets up to $15 million.

Father John is a spy adventure set in “seedy nighttime Shanghai as a melting pot of shady expatriates,” producer David Minnihan says on the project’s website.

A principal and head of entertainment at Deutsch, Levy & Engel, Kessler is representing the film’s American producers. 

Kessler announced in October that he’d signed a memorandum of understanding for the coproduction slate, after leading a delegation of entertainment professionals to Beijing.

The investment group, he says “will come and be sponsors and have a big play at Sundance 2014.”

Kessler is attending the Cannes Film Festival May 14-20, where he’ll be presenting at the American Pavilion on production incentives and international coproduction.  Then he’s going to China to present on the same subject at an industry symposium.

Kessler prominent proponent of Section 181

Kessler has been a leading proponent of the federal and state production incentives that were introduced a decade ago to counteract the loss of productions to Canada and other countries that had more aggressive incentives.

Section 181 of the Internal Revenue Code, renewed in January as part of the American Tax Payer Relief Act, allows investors in qualifying film productions in 2012-13 to deduct the entire value of their investment.  A qualifying film can spend up to 25% of its budget outside the U.S.

“If you package meaningful incentives together you can promise a recovery of 50-75% before a sale,” Kessler says.  “It’s a great platform for Chinese coproduction.  Using them as a funding source doesn’t hurt your Section 181 status.  I’m going to talk about that at Cannes, and in China.”

Beijing Film Festival coproductions showcase

Kessler was slated to speak on a panel with Peter Jackson about Hollywood-China coproductions this week at the Beijing Film Festival, but wound up canceling due to schedule conflict.  The third annual Beijing fest is expected to be a major showcase for coproductions, which are growing rapidly.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy delivers the keynote address at the fest’s Sino-Foreign Film Co-production Forum Sunday.  Kennedy will also sign a cooperation agreement with a Chinese tech company, Beijing Film Market director Helen Chen told the Hollywood Reporter.  

Also at the Beijing Festival, Keanu Reeves will premiere the trailer for his directorial debut, the Chinese coproduction Man of Tai Chi.

Contact Ed Koziarski at edmkoz@gmail.com.

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