The Brit List of most admired unproduced screenplays began 4 years ago, inspired by the Hollywood version known as the Black List. This year the anonymous UK agent polled 80 industry players, asking them for their favourite screenplays. Due to the increased number of people taking part this year, a script had to receive 3 votes or more to appear on the list. Over 170 screenplays were nominated but only 35 made the final cut. Well-known writers on the list include Ian McEwan, who has adapted his own novel On Chesil Beach for Sam Mendes; John Hodge (Trainspotting), who has written William and Harold for 127 Hours producer Christian Colson; and Paul Andrew Williams (The Cottage), whose Song For Marion,
EXCLUSIVE: It does seem strange. Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, James McAvoy, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, and many other famous UK thesps don’t run their own production companies or have cushy vanity deals at homegrown studios like their U.S. counterparts. “Since Britain doesn’t have a studio system, we don’t have room for vanity shingles. And when they do get set up, they tend to languish because actors then go to Hollywood for the big money,” says London-based United Agents’ Lindy King. That, in a nutshell, is why so many famous UK stars are still only actors for hire.
By contrast, Hollywood studios have lots of vanity deals with actors, though few with British talent behind them. Out of the roughly 150+ total first-look deals which the major Hollywood studios maintain, only 7 are with UK-based production companies and none are run by British stars – Working Title (Universal Picture), Sam Mendes’s Neal Street Productions (Focus Features), Harry Potter-producer Heyday (Warner Bros), Wallace and Gromit-maker Aardman Animations (Sony Pictures Entertainment), Elton John’s Rocket Pictures (Walt Disney Studios), Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free (Twentieth Century Fox), and James Bond factory Danjaq Productions (what’s left of MGM). British producers such as Harbour Pictures (Calendar Girls), DNA Films (Never Let Me Go) and Marv Films (Kick-Ass) once had first-look deals with Disney/Miramax, Fox Searchlight, and Sony respectively but no longer. “A lot of these U.S. vanity deals are expiring or not being renewed. [But] Hollywood [should] look at the UK in terms of it’s being a sweet spot. I mean, we punch above our weight in terms of talent.” Thykier used to run the Marv Films production company with Matthew Vaughn — but their deal foundered after Sony passed on many of their projects like Kick-Ass, The Debt, and Harry Brown.
Antonia Bird (Priest, Face) is directing one of the features Kees Kasander — Peter Greenaway’s regular producer — is making with London-based Film & Music Entertainment and post-production house Molinare. The 4-film slate will cost $17.5 million to produce. One of the films, The Domino Effect, is already in the can and editing in the Netherlands. “This isn’t one of those fantasy slates that you read about,” F&ME co-principal Mike Downey tells me. “All 4 films are pretty much financed. We’re just bringing the last slice in.” Bird will helm Cross My Mind in early 2011. UK Film Council, Screen Yorkshire and the Netherlands Film Fund are backing this erotic thriller, which plays out between a married, older woman and a young wounded, blinded soldier – but the woman is not who he thinks she is… Arthouse favourite Greenaway will shoot Goltzius and The Pelican Company, about a 16th century Dutch engraver engraving Old Testament erotic stories for a local nobleman. This $3 million project is being structured as a Netherlands/UK/French/South Africa co-production and will shoot in Cape Town in early summer 2011. And To Be King, a $7 million adaptation of the bestselling Dutch children’s book likely to be directed by screenwriter Sander Burger, should go into production late next year. “The European market is such that we need to create a series of reciprocal production arrangements, which benefit all parties,” said Kasander. “And by hooking up with F&ME on a long term basis, we are creating another block …
John Woodward will become managing director of the European venture capital company that invests in digital film next month. Woodward has said in public that if he was starting over he would get involved in digital film rights aggregation. Arts Alliance’s investments include LoveFilm – the UK version of Netflix – and it has overseen the digital conversion of over 700 digital screens across Europe, with over 2,300 screens signed up. Five Hollywood studios have signed deals with Arts Alliance to let it handle digital releasing of their movies.
That’s a rise of 3% year-on-year. And the best is yet to come this month and next, with the release of Toy Story 3 – tipped to be the biggest movie of the year – adult must-see Inception and Twi-hard threequel Twilight: Eclipse. Around 25 million people are expected to go to the cinema in July and August alone, says trade body Film Distributors’ Association.
But the movie marketplace continues to grow, creating headaches for distributors. Overcrowding is the biggest problem facing the industry. Distributors released 288 titles between January and June, 18 more than in the first six months of 2009. Producers complain that movies are pushed off screens before they’ve had a chance.