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LONDON – AMC’s Knifeman pilot will be the next high-end U.S. television show to shoot in the British capital. Film London, the U.K. government-backed agency tasked with growing London’s production industries and attracting inward investment from the U.S. and beyond, trumpeted the arrival of the latest show from the network behind Mad Men and Breaking Bad as the great and good gathered at the world famous Gherkin building to celebrate Film London’s 10 years in operation.
The show is based on Wendy Moore‘s biography of 18th-century surgeon John Hunter and will be directed by Craig Zisk. Rolin Jones (Low Winter Sun) penned the pilot script.
The production joins 20th Century Fox’s 24: Live Another Day, which sees Kiefer Sutherland‘s Jack Bauer fighting terrorists in the British capital and premiered worldwide on television Monday.
British producer Iain Smith — based out of Pinewood Studios on the outskirts of London and a familiar go-to for Hollywood studio movies — was due at the Gherkin to deliver his own congratulations but had to return to the 24 set at the last minute for work purposes.
Shooting for over six months, with a core crew of 130, supplemented by over 500 temporary crew and a U.K. cast of approximately 150, plus thousands of extras, 24: Live Another Day has a total production spend of approximately $63 million (£37 million), Film London said.
Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes, on hand to offer his own happy birthday congrats to Film London, said that the British capital’s growth in attracting more and more productions was because of the city itself.
Noting that Downton shoots on location in the city, Fellowes said: “Locations are characters, key characters. The real reason so much filming goes on in London is because it’s London.”
He said that while everyone knew the facilities, crews and postproduction sector was populated by the best in the business, productions came to the capital because it had become a destination filmmakers wanted to work in. Fellowes said that was in no small part due to the work Film London had done over 10 years to make things easier and the city more filmmaker friendly.
While trumpeting its own success, Film London also pledged a return of its low-budget filmmaking hothouse plan, Microwave, bolstered by the backing of the British Film Institute for the first time in addition to existing partner BBC Films, and a purse of over $3.3 million (£2 million) in the capital’s talent.
Actor Riz Ahmed, who has starred in two Microwave breakout hits — Shifty and Ill Manors — said he had two words to describe the low-budget, guerrilla-making endeavor.
“MInimum wage,” quipped Ahmed amid laughter from the industryites, which included David Parfitt, BFI deputy chair Lisbeth Savill and filmmaker Stephen Frears.
On a serious note, Ahmed said he thought Microwave and Film London’s endeavors helped ensure multicultural British storytelling made it to the big screen.
He noted that with budgets of $160,000 it would be impossible to make a costume drama for that.
He then said that he was planning a gun-crime thriller set in Peckham with Fellowes. “In the 17th century,” Ahmed grinned. Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Oscar-winner David Puttnam, filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and Working Title’s Eric Fellner also provided taped messages of support at the event.
Parfitt, chairman of Film London, said: “While we look to the future, I am enormously proud that we have an eye on the bigger picture — protecting London’s film heritage, supporting a rich film culture, discovering local filmmakers and more — and the investment of almost $7 million (£4 million), which we are announcing today, is only part of our year-round activity. In the face of a rapidly-changing media landscape, now could not be a more exciting time to expand and work with the wider content industries to ensure this great city continues to lead the way in driving forward creativity, innovation and originality onscreen.”
London this year has already hosted The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring Henry Cavill, Ben Stiller-starrer Night at the Museum 3 and Paddington with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.
Avengers sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, with Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, is now in production, soon to be joined by London Has Fallen, which stars Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman, while the city will be seen in cinemas in Tom Cruise-starrer Edge of Tomorrow and Jupiter Ascending, starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, which will be released here in May and July, respectively.
The Gherkin — the ultra-security-conscious venue for Film London’s 10th birthday event — appeared recently in Thor: The Dark World, starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman.