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Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the powerhouse production duo behind Number 9 Films, are set to receive the outstanding British contribution to cinema award at the BAFTA ceremony on Feb. 10.
Previous recipients of the prize, presented annually in honor of British producer Michael Balcon, include Mike Leigh, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jarman, Mary Selway, Ridley and Tony Scott, Working Title Films, Lewis Gilbert, the Harry Potter series of films, John Hurt, Peter Greenaway, Tessa Ross, BBC Films, Angels Costumes and Curzon. The National Film and Television School was the recipient at this year’s awards gala.
Woolley began his career in the mid-1970s, working at his local art house cinema in London before owning and running his own repertory cinema, the legendary Scala. Alongside Nik Powell, he founded Palace Pictures, successfully distributing over 250 independent films from the likes of Leigh and Ken Loach as well as international hits like Paris, Texas; When Harry Met Sally; and The Evil Dead.
On the production side, 1983 marked the beginning of Woolley’s highly successful collaboration with Neil Jordan. The Company of Wolves was their first film together, which was nominated for four BAFTAs. Other films they produced include Interview With the Vampire, Michael Collins, Mona Lisa, The End of the Affair and The Crying Game.
Karlsen began her career in New York after completing a graduate degree at Sussex University. She produced short films in early collaborations with Christine Vachon and worked with the late filmmaker Bill Sherwood on his first and only feature film, 1990’s Parting Glances, before he died of AIDS. Made on a tiny budget, Parting Glances starred Steve Buscemi in his first film role and went on to achieve international success as a ground-breaking film. Karlsen first worked as an on-set intern, where Sherwood recognized her talents and asked her to assist him with the edit and all aspects of postproduction.
Married since the early 1990s, Karlsen and Woolley set up Number 9 Films in 2002. The prolific banner has since been behind more than 20 features, including Made in Dagenham, Carol, Youth, The Limehouse Golem and Collette, and has earned 52 BAFTA nominations in total. They currently are working on So Much Love, a film about British singer Dusty Springfield, which was written and is being directed by Carol scribe Phyllis Nagy.
“Elizabeth and Stephen are two of the U.K.’s leading producers whose contribution to the British film industry over the last four decades is outstanding,” BAFTA film committee chair Marc Samuelson said Sunday in a statement. “Their commitment to producing independent films in the U.K. which breaks down barriers and connects with audiences internationally is an inspiration to us all. The success they have enjoyed is testament to their passion and excellence in filmmaking and we’re delighted to award them the outstanding British contribution to cinema award.”
Added Woolley and Karlsen: “We are both extremely honored to be given this prestigious award. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Balcon is special. We would like to thank BAFTA for recognizing the importance of independent producers in the U.K. and thank everyone involved.”
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