Film4 Gets Serious About Comedy

 Nicola Dove/Courtest of Film4

LONDON – Film4, the standalone movie-making arm of broadcaster Channel 4, is pumping an extra £1 million ($1.6 million) into a development fund specifically geared towards unearthing comedy gold at the boxoffice.

Film4 chief and Channel 4’s controller of film and drama Tessa Ross told gathered industry luminaries at the unit's pre-Cannes annual bash Thursday evening it is allocating the additional funding to unearth the next laugher.

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The move comes in the wake of the runaway boxoffice success of The Inbetweeners movie, a project fully financed by Channel 4 through Film4 and 4DVD, which went on to take a whopping £45 million ($72.6 million) in the U.K. alone.

On the way the bawdy teen comedy set a record for the most successful opening weekend ever for a British laugher and became the third highest grossing film of 2011 here behind only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and multiple Oscar winnner The King’s Speech.

Ross and Channel 4 have charged the broadcaster's head of comedy Shane Allen -- the exec producer who steered the growth of The Inbetweeners from a cult comedy show on Channel 4's digital offering E4 series to a box office hit -- with the task of managing the fresh comedy fund.

Allen will manage the fund and commissioning activity with Film4 and is tasked with developing features for theatrical release with an initial annual development budget of $1.6 million.

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While the size of the fund is far from large, it is likely to be used to seed development of projects with big ambitions.

That cash is in addition to Film4’s annual £15 million ($24 million) funding it currently invests in developing and financing films.

Allen's small screen resume on his watch as head of comedy includes Facejacker, Star Stories, Friday Night Dinner, Black Mirror and Comic Strip: The Hunt for Tony Blair

Allen described the cashpool as "a fantastic adrenaline shot for more British film comedy following on from the overwhelming audience appetite we experienced last summer."

He added: "The recent explosion in live comedy is because it's a very communal experience, so with the huge expertise of Film4 it's a brilliant opportunity to tap the cinematic potential of UK writing and performing talent.”

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This year's Festival de Cannes lineup includes the Film4 backed projects Walter Salles' On The Road with Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Riley among the ensemble cast and Ben Wheatley’s comedy horror Sightseers.

Ross described Allen's track record as "impeccable" when it came to comedy commissions.

“With his [Allen's] huge wealth of experience we know we are in for some seriously entertaining films," Ross said.

Film4 has developed and co-financed a slew of titles including Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire  and 127 Hours, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, Steve McQueen’s Hunger and Shame, Mike Leigh’s Another Year, Chris MorrisFour Lions, Richard Ayoade’s SubmarineJoe Cornish’s directorial debut Attack The Block, Lone Scherfig’s One Day, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Paddy Considine’s debut feature Tyrannosaur.

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