British Independent Film Awards 2016: The Breakthrough Producers Long List

2:30 AM 10/20/2016

by Alex Ritman

A preview of the 15 films and 21 individuals – including a rather familiar face – on the long list for the BIFA's new award for first and second time producers.

Courtesy of Bleecker Street Media

The British Independent Film Awards – the BIFAs to those in the know and arguably the BAFTA's cheekier, boozier cousin – is set to unveil its official nominations on Nov. 1 ahead of the Dec 4. ceremony in London.

To celebrate the addition of several new categories aimed at highlighting new and emerging names, The Hollywood Reporter has teamed with the organizers to profile those who have made it onto the nominee long lists.

Following Wednesday's debut screenwriter category, today it's the turn of the breakthrough producers, those who have produced their first or second film. The list of 15 titles and some 21 names includes dark comedies, hard hitting documentaries, actioners starring the likes of Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson, and one hit film from a Hollywood name very few people won't recognize (but it is his first time producing – we checked).

  • 'Adult Life Skills'

    Michael Berliner, producer

    Credit: Producers

    Michael Berliner produced 15 shorts – including Friend Request Pending starring Judi Dench (her only short film role to date) and Fyzal Boulifa's Cannes-winning Whore – before working on his debut feature, Adult Life Skills, a coming-of-age comedy directed by Rachel Tunnard from their short pilot, the BAFTA-winning Emotional Fusebox. The film bowed at Tribeca before releasing across the U.K. on June 24th with the help of a BFI distribution fund award, getting the highest screen average of all-non studio openers that week (even more than Kevin Spacey's Elvis and Nixon).

    Why do you make movies?

    Because it pays fantastically and the work-life balance is really good… Seriously though, because films have always been my big love (after my wife obviously!) – can things get better than working inside your big passion?

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    It's impossible to pick someone I admire most of all - but I'm inspired by Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken, with Kate Buckley and Josh Varney, and how rapidly and ambitiously they've built up 42 into a powerhouse.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Waking up to a couple of dozen emails and notifications on the morning that Emotional Fusebox (the pilot for Adult Life Skills) got a BAFTA nomination for best short film. I'd slept in and it was a brilliant, if belated, way to find out such amazing news.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    I'm most excited about sci fi Future Inc, to be written by Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd's script editor Andrew Ellard, adapted from the 48 Hour Film Challenge winning short of the same name; and We Met At Glastonbury, a romantic drama to be directed by Dan Gill, whose debut feature Modern Life Is Rubbish has been picked up by Universal. I’m passionate about both because I want to make films with brains that can also reach a large audience - these are fresh and subversive ideas which will do just that.

  • 'Eye in the Sky'

    Colin Firth and Ged Doherty, producers

    Courtesy of Bleecker Street Media

    Probably the individual who needs the least introduction on this list, Colin Firth may be a household name from Tokyo to Timbuktu, but his Helen Mirren-starring drone thriller Eye in the Sky was his first stint as fully-fledged producer under the Raindog Films banner he established with music industry veteran Ged Doherty, chairman of the BRIT Awards and former Sony Music U.K. CEO. The film, which premiered in Toronto in 2015, took home an excellent $32.8 million (off a $13 million budget). Their follow-up is Jeff Nichol's drama Loving, which bowed in Cannes to widespread acclaim and looks set to have a presence going into the next awards season.

    Why do you make movies?

    Colin Firth: If I go back to the beginning it’s probably because of Some Like it Hot. Or maybe North By North West. Or The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T…?

    Ged Doherty: Hopefully to use the fortunate position we find ourselves in to bring attention to subjects and themes that might inspire debate and conversation, but to also entertain.

    Which producer do you admire the most and why?

    Firth: Ged Doherty.

    Doherty: Colin Firth.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Firth: Getting our first green light. (No 2: Getting our 2nd green light).

    Doherty: When Eye In the Sky entered the U.K. box office at No 2...and stayed there!

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    Firth: Yes. Jealously up my sleeve.

    Doherty: I’m passionate about all of our projects!

  • 'The Girl With All the Gifts'

    Camille Gatin, producer

    Festival del film Locarno

    Camille Gatin was a fan of Mike Carey's comic books long before she arranged a meeting with the author, but it was there that she discovered a short novel he'd just written. She optioned the story, which essentially became the first five minutes of futuristic zombie thriller The Girl With All the Gifts, brought Colm McCarthy – best known for his work on Peaky Blinders and Sherlock – on board to direct, and the two of them came up with the plot from there. Things heated up when Carey wrote a novel based on the film outline, which went on to become a bestseller and was picked up – and loved – by Joss Whedon (which Gatin says certainly helped getting financiers interested). Warner Bros. came on board and launched the film in the U.K. in September to critical acclaim. A U.S. release is expected for 2017.

    Why do you make movies?

    I love the privilege of being the first person to hear someone's pitch and think "wow, that would make a great film." There's something very special about knowing you're the only person in the world to have heard this awesome idea and that now it's your responsibility to get it out there at all costs.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    Kathleen Kennedy.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Telling all our financiers we were sending a second unit to Chernobyl (to shoot an abandoned, overgrown city). There was a stunned silence, everyone was wondering whether I was joking, then someone asked "is your insurer fine with that?" "Yes" "Well... there's always a first time for everything".

  • 'The Hard Stop'

    Dionne Walker, producer

    Credit: Producers

    Over the past 18 years, Dionne Walker has been curating and producing debate series and independent film projects. She previously worked as one of London's location coordinators and help facilitate major blockbusters such as The Mummy Returns and V for Vendetta. With The Hard Stop, which she wrote and produced, Walker delved into the hugely controversial 2011 killing of Londoner Mark Duggen at the hands of the police, an act of violence that sparked some of the worst civil unrest in recent British history, helping research and develop the project as a hybrid film that combined observational material with constructed reality sequences and news archives. It had its world premiere in Toronto before releasing in U.K. cinemas, and on Netflix in the U.S., over the summer.

    Why do you make movies?

    I'm interested in the urban, social and the immediate, and the audio-visual medium of cinema allows me to say and do something about the way we are living now.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    I respect the auteur producer, and often wonder what film they would direct, especially the women. These producers are inspiring for different reasons, Harvey Weinstein represent the romantic ideas I've about independent cinema; those more likely on my radar are Lina Gopaul, Rebecca O'Brien, Steve McQueen, Signe Byge Sorensen, Joslyn Barnes and Ava Duvernay.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    I still can't believe that we stopped beating silent drums – the moment when independent cinema institutions such as Sundance Institute, Bertha Foundation and British Film Institute heard our beat and backed our ideas all the way.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    Yes, Invisible Woman 2.0 – a dark, elegant and legislative story about Lucy, a young sex worker from Benin and her regular client Jean François. We follow them as they discover what lies between crossing criminal & immigration boundaries, their imagined worlds, and working the streets of Paris. Additionally, I'm developing a few projects with George [Amponsah, director of The Hard Stop]

  • 'K-Shop'

    Adam J. Merrifield, producer

    Credit: Producers

    Adam Merrifield, behind the award-winning eco doc Drying for Freedom, launched White Lantern Films with director Dan Pringle. Their first feature together was K-Shop, a violent thriller about a family kebab shop owner who descends into vigilantism after taking on the drunks waging war on his restaurant. The two are now developing Britannica, a futuristic thriller exploring topical themes of immigration and national identity. 

    Why do you make movies?

    I am always searching for stories which can change perspectives; movies offer us a unique opportunity to comment on society in an entertaining and informative way.  As the Wachowski’s intimate in Cloud Atlas, a movie could impact society centuries after it's produced, a fascinating concept and one main reason why I love making movies.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    There isn’t a single producer I admire the most, I think the main reason is that producers are not at the forefront of the industry in the same way as directors.  I really admire several writing, directing, producing partnerships and teams, for example, the Wachowski’s, Coen brothers and the team surrounding the Nolan brothers and J.J. Abrams.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    One day I would like to produce a great period drama about King Edward II of England as history alludes to an interesting story which has yet to be told on the big screen in an epic way. I was inspired by Derek Jarman's adaption of Christopher Marlowe's play, which he released as a film in 1991, but I think there is scope to produce a period drama along the lines of The King's Speech or The Madness of King George.

  • 'Moon Dogs'

    Kathy Speirs, producer

    Credit: Producers

    Inspired to become a filmmaker after working at the Glasgow Film Office, Wales-born, Scotland-residing Kathy Spiers went on to make a series of short films before embarking on her first feature, Moon Dogs, about two teenage step brothers who fall for the same girl on a chaotic road trip. The film picked up several festival awards including the Galway Film Fleadh's best international first feature, alongside a BAFTA Scotland best film nomination.

    Why do you make movies?

    Because I can! For a long time I didn't think it would be possible because it was a world that seemed inaccessible and not something that someone like me could do. I was born in a small, working class village in South Wales and it wasn’t an occupation that was mentioned there as a valid career option to pursue.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    I couldn’t actually tell you the names of that many - I know that's bad! I do admire anyone who manages to make a film. At the moment l’m working closely with two producers – Andee Ryder of Elephant Gun Films and Suzanne Reid of Capricorn Film Productions – who l really love, they are amazing.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    The first day of principle photography on my last film Moon Dogs. Everyone in film works towards moments like that.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    All the projects l’m involved with are passion projects! Life is too short to work on bad films. I've a small slate which includes Dating Katie, a comedy about two friends who pretend to be together on social media to make their exes jealous, The Saviours, a suburban horror, The Petectives, a family film, and a coming of old age film called Downsized.

  • 'The Man from Mo'Wax'

    M J McMahon, producer, Matthew Jones, producer/director

    Photo by Will Bankhead courtesy of James Lavelle

    Matthew Jones and M J McMahon had collaborated on several shorts – including the award-winning Gin & Dry – through their  production banner Capture before diving into their first feature, The Man from Mo'Wax. Charting the extraordinary life and career of underground DJ legend, electronic music producer and global trip hop mogul James Lavelle, the founder of the iconic dance label Mo'Wax, the pulsating doc stars the likes of DJ Shadow, Massive Attack and Grandmaster Flash, using footage spanning three decades. The film had its premiere at SXSW.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    Matthew Jones: John Battsek has an astonishing history of making some amazing documentaries consistently over a 20 year period. He mentored us through the Film London Micro Market scheme and gave us some wonderful, very honest and clear advice to help get The Man From Mo'Wax made.

    M J McMahon: Iain Canning – I think he has great taste in the projects he chooses to make, they often achieve critical and commercial success. This is something I would like to emulate.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    McMahon: When we were selected to world premiere our debut feature film - The Man from Mo’Wax at this year’s SXSW in their prestigious ‘25 Beats per Second’ strand.

    Jones: Getting completion funding from the BFI for The Man From Mo'Wax.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    McMahon: Yes, it’s called Playing Mercy. It’s a coming of age story, about a teenage boy falling in love for the first time whilst throwing off the shackles of expectation placed upon him by his family and the local community. Its set in a seaside town, in northern England pre-social media in 2003, due to that fact you could say it’s a period piece.

  • 'A Moving Image'

    Rienkje Attoh, producer

    Courtesy of A Moving Image Ltd.

    Having started her professional career as a broadcast journalist at the BBC before moving on to produce news and current affairs programs, Rienkje Attoh has since produced a number of short films. Her debut feature A Moving Image covers the subject of gentrification in the London borough of Brixton, incorporating fiction, documentary and performance art. It had its world premiere at the LA Film Festival, while Rienjke's So & So Productions banner later won the British Film Institute Vision Award, receiving £100,000 over two years to develop her film slate.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    Andrea Calderwood and Christine Langan – who I have been fortunate enough to have as mentors – Rebecca O’Brien, Jeremy Thomas and Harvey Weinstein. All of these producers have made films that have affected me in one way or another; whether through sheer entertainment or just by making me contemplate the world around us.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    It would have to be when A Moving Image was accepted into the LA Film Festival. It began our festival run, which has been such an exciting ride. The film has been received so well and we’re delighted that we’re able to make a film that explores the worldwide social issue of gentrification.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    I've been working on a project based on my maternal Dutch grandmother’s memoir for a few years now. She grew up in post-WWII Amsterdam, and the script examines memories, race relations and love through two generations spanning two continents. I’m developing this with the talented writer, Jennifer Majka.

  • 'My Feral Heart'

    James Rumsey, producer

    Credit: Producers

    After working as an assistant director on a number of films and TV, as well as directing his own short Milk Man, which won eight international awards, James Rumsey was determined to make his own feature. But he realized that his passion and skill set lay in producing, and at his own film networking event met upcoming director Jane Gull, who he brought on board to helm his debut feature, My Feral Heart. The film, which tells the hard-hitting and warm-hearted story of a young man with Down syndrome suddenly thrown into a daunting new environment, premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival and was hugely well received.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    That's a tricky one, as I've prayed at the alter of writers and directors rather than producers most of my life. That said, I am a great admirer of Stephen Woolley and Nick Powell. There is one interview I read with Stephen Woolley where he described how he goes into a pitch meeting for finance. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of "I never suggest that I cannot make the film without the person's money, I always tell them that the film is getting made with or without them and that this is an opportunity for them to be a part of it." It's a great bit of advice.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Getting the call from the man that ended up becoming our key financier telling us that he loved the script and wanted to pledge 50 percent of our budget. It took a further 6 months before we got the money into our account, but the deal came with a sales agent and so to be able to go into production on our micro-budget debut knowing we had representation and a fully financed budget was incredible. Being nominated for this BIFA (and 9 others) comes a very close second.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    My Feral Heart – which I am now releasing independently through Our Screen on and some independent screens in November – is definitely my current passion project and one that I will be forever proud to have as my debut feature producing credit. I have met an intensely passionate community of people with Down syndrome, and parents that have children with Down syndrome and I am richer for it. If the script is good enough I would absolutely do another project like this. 

  • 'Prevenge'

    Will Kane, producer

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    After interning at The Bureau and working on a couple of their Anglo-French co-pros, Will Kane joined Western Edge Pictures as an assistant producer, supervising the post-production and release of the doc Mr Calzaghe and taking on management of the growing slate. Alice Lowe's darkly comic Prevenge is Kane's debut feature as producer, but offered an unusual challenge in that he had to help shape the schedule around Lowe's pregnancy, even including a post-natal pickup day of Baby Della (in her debut performance). He is currently producing the feature doc Pistorius, examining the tragedy of Reeva Steenkamp's death while looking at South Africa's turbulent society.

    Why do you make movies?

    Making movies is just an utter joy. For me great movies are all about great writing and then the pure excitement of seeing that come alive and being transformed by the best laid and rehearsed plans colliding with the ridiculous happenstance of the everyday.

    Which producer do you admire the most?

    Obviously I could give a whole list of “filmic greats”, but I tend to be more inspired by those I’ve worked with personally. Having only been in the industry a relatively short time I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside and under some really great producers. My entire team at WEP / Gennaker are truly fantastic: Vaughan Sivell and Sean Richard both in their own way inspiring. And then from my time at the Bureau (where incidentally I first met and worked with Sean) being able to see Tristan Goligher work, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more professional producer.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    I have a great number of projects I’m in some way determined to work on, I think the difficulty with film is focusing on those special ones that you can make work at any particular time and knowing how to invest your time/energy effectively. At WEP / Gennaker we’ve got some very exciting pieces on the slate, from a medieval type western, to a really exciting project with Toby Fell-Holden (the director of our currently Oscar long-listed short, Balcony), to a very cool internet thriller-horror story that we are all extremely excited about.

  • 'Notes on Blindness'

    Mike Brett, Jo Jo Ellison and Steve Jamison, producers

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    Jo-Jo Ellison won an Emmy for the New York Times short Notes on Blindness, an inspiring docu-drama about the author and academic John Hull, who used recordings to explain the world of blindness after losing his sight in 1983. For the feature length version, she teamed with former Breakthrough Brits producers Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, whose debut feature Next Goal Wins won the BIFA for best documentary in 2014. The critically acclaimed film premiered at Sundance, before winning awards at Sheffield Doc/Fest, the San Francisco Film Festival and Tribeca.

     

     

  • 'Tiger Raid'

    Gareth Coulam Evans, writer-producer

    Credit: Producers

    Having line produced several TV and film productions, including the award-winning The Traveler Girl and several shorts (one starring Dennis Hopper), Gareth Coulam Evans – who also appears on the debut scriptwriter long list – co-founded Dixon Baxi Evans with collaborator and director Simon Dixon. Tiger Raid, following two cold-blooded mercenaries on a covert mission, is their first feature, produced by Evans and the two of then co-writing with Mick Donnellan, who wrote the original stage play. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

    Why do you make movies?

    To play with ideas, indulge fantasies and try to find a little magic.

    Which producer do you admire the most and why?

    Robert Evans. His was the first film book I ever read. What an ultimate badass

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    All the ones when it wasn’t like Robert Evans’ book.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    Yes; Dixon Baxi Evans’ next film, Snow Blind - a psychological thriller set in China. I’m producing, and co-writing with Simon Dixon, who will direct. We’re working on it now to shoot next year.

  • 'Trespass Against Us '

    Alastair Siddons, writer-producer

    Courtesy of TIFF

    After directing two documentary features in 2009's Turn it Loose and 2014's Inside Out: The People's Art Project, Alistair Siddons wrote his debut screenplay Trespass Against Us, which he produced with Potboiler Films and Film4. A crime drama set within the Traveler community and its clashes with the police, the film boasts an A-list cast in Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson, stadium fillers in The Chemical Brothers on soundtrack duty and an dynamic U.S. distributor in A24, with Lionsgate releasing in the U.K. The film had it world premiere in Toronto.

  • 'Urban Hymn'

    John Sachs, Andrew Berg and Neil Chordia, producers

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    Neil Chordia teamed with John Sachs and Andrew Berg of Eclipse Global Media to produce Urban Hymn, which premiered at year's Toronto Flm Festival. Set against the backdrop of the 2011 English riots, the film is a redemptive coming-of-age story exploring the choice a disenfranchised teen is forced to make between the support of the mother figure she never had and loyalty towards her possessive and unstable best friend.

    Which producer do you admire the most and why?

    Andrew Berg: Jerry Weintraub. He was a real entrepreneur in entertainment and very passionate too. He made so many great movies and worked with so many people for such a long time. What a career.

    John Sachs: Luc Besson. He has to love the film he’s producing – he can't take the Hollywood pay day. He’s written, directed and produced 100 films from Leon, one of my personal favorites, to smart franchises like Transporter and Taken.

    Neil Chordia: David Barron.  He’s an astute and savvy producer, has worked on some great films and remains one of the nicest people in the business. That’s quite rare.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Sachs: That’s easy…I had lunch with an investor I had never met before and by the time we got to coffee he had agreed to 100 percent equity finance my film!

    Chordia: As a marketing intern at United International Pictures I was taken on a set visit to the Bond film, The World is Not Enough. The marketing director, Ken Green, had told me he knew Pierce Brosnan and after watching one take, Pierce walked straight off set and shook his hand. I’d never even been on a movie set before and here I was a few months into my career and I was shaking hands and chatting with James Bond!

    Berg: Walking on the red carpet at the premiere of Urban Hymn.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    Chordia: Several, although I’d love get an animation called L.A. Llamas made. It’s about a group of llamas that end up in Hollywood to be animal actors. I'm also determined to get a series/film based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu made.

    Berg: Pretty much all the projects I engage with I’m passionate about - you spend so long with them you have to be.

    Sachs: I’m a huge fan of the Jamie Foxx films Ray and Dream Girls. I am really excited about the Little Richard story….I’m developing a film and a musical with the man himself!

  • 'Where You're Meant to Be'

    Paul Fegan, writer-producer-director

    Paul Fegan spent much of his career as a music promoter, moving into directing with a couple of videos for bands, including one for former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat. It was this Scottish cult-pop raconteur who gave him the idea for his first doc feature, Where you're Meant To Be, a tour around Scotland playing old folk songs that he had rewritten. But just before they hit the road, the doc – Fegan's first feature-length film after the award-winning short Pouters – took a diversion when they met Sheila Stewart, the last in a line of traveling folk royalty.

    Why do you make movies?

    I'm fairly new to making them, prior to Where you're Meant To Be the only other film I'd made was a short documentary in 2012. I was a music programmer and promoter before making movies, and the thing that I always enjoyed about that job was bringing together artists and audiences and the connections that are fostered from a live setting. I feel that music shapes and often define's aspects of our life and what I've learned while making this first feature is that filmmaking allows you to explore these connections in a much deeper way.

    In your career to date, what’s been your number one “I can’t believe it” moment?

    Finding out that one of my two main characters (Sheila Stewart) had died. Having been filming with her only days prior, this came as really tragic and surprising news. We still had further shooting plans and ideas to try but more than that I was just sad that Sheila wouldn't be able to finish this thing we had started and see the final film. This news changed the course of the edit in part as our direction became as much about capturing Sheila's legacy as she was the last of her traveler family to carry this centuries-old tradition of singing what she saw as their family ballads.

    Do you have a passion project that you’re determined to work on?

    The idea I am currently researching and extremely passionate about is also a music led movie, but from a very different world than the one I've just explored. The first music that really moved me was the house and techno sound of Chicago and Detroit in the late 80s early 90s. I'm currently attempting to unearth the stories of these scenes and thinking as to how we can best tell a story that elevates and illuminates what I believe to be one of the most significant subcultures in modern music.

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