Fyzz Facility's Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones on Wide-Release Aspirations
The co-heads of the London-based company also discuss striking gold with a low-budget shark movie and their push into TV.
After being introduced by David Schwimmer at the wrap party for his directorial debut Run Fatboy Run in 2006, it took another couple of years before Brit execs Wayne Marc Godfrey and Robert Jones got talking again (at Cannes’ famous industry soccer match, no less). But it was in 2010 when the two decided to pool their financial and film industry know-how to form The Fyzz Facility. Initially a lending house, first providing a small loan for the 2012 Brit indie Best Laid Plans, Fyzz has grown exponentially, last year providing roughly $150 million to some 60 films (including Wind River, Silence and On Chesil Beach). But it’s also become more than just a handy source of capital, in 2016 bringing Mark Lane's and James Harris’ banner The Tea Shop & Film Company into its fold and seeing its low-budget shark thriller 47 Meters Down become 2017’s second-biggest indie hit with a U.S. haul of $44 million for Byron Allen’s growing Entertainment Studios. In Berlin, Fyzz is launching the Russell Brand action comedy Butterfingers at the market and also has the AFM-bowing Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves rom-com Destination Wedding (already picked up for the U.S. by David Dinerstein’s new Aviron Pictures label), while in the pipeline lurk high-profile projects such as Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted, now casting. Godfrey and Jones talked to THR about Fyzz’s growing wide-release aspirations, their new TV arm (and its new Julian Fellowes-penned series) and which of their upcoming films to watch on a Friday night with a curry.
Did the success of 47 Meters Down give you confidence in what you were doing?
Jones: I think it provided a boost to make a film like that from the U.K. and for it to have that level of success in North America and be viewed as an American film. No one thought that was a British film.
Godfrey: 47 made people a little bit more aware of what we are as a production house, followed by The Foreigner and upcoming titles. I think it has definitely changed the conversations we’re having with distributors, and we have a number of output deal talks going on.
Have the scope and scale of your film projects been increasing over time?
Godfrey: We definitely have an aspiration to build wide-release movies now. We’re aiming for films that will have a theatrical play. We’ve got the bug for movies that go wide. Budget-wise, we’re now in the range of $5 million to $30 million. The films in our new slate are all skewing nearer the $20 million mark.
How is the new TV side of the business coming along?
Godfrey: At the end of last year, we took on Zoe Rocha as our head of TV, and she’s now spearheading that. There’s a series that Julian Fellowes has written and James Strong is directing, called The Girl on the Landing, which is from a book by Paul Torday, who wrote Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Jones: The Fellowes one is a limited series, but in general the things we’ll be looking to develop are those that have a certain potential of longevity. If we can get two or three of those going, that gives that part of the business a very stable footing. TV is a fascinating area. It’s been a far more stable industry than indie filmmaking.
So far your output has been quite popcorn-y. Do you have plans to look in a more art house or prestige direction?
Jones: The Dee Rees one is a good example — Rees is quite rightly seen as one of the most exciting directors around. It’s from a great book, is very castable. It’s a great example of something we’d like to be doing more of, where you can combine real commercial potential with wonderful directors, something that one hopes would be critically well received and get awards attention.
And then you’ve got Final Score, which has just been picked up by Sky in the U.K. for its newly announced Original Films banner. It must be great to have another outlet looking for titles...
Jones: It’s a great opportunity and completely fits their combination of sports and movies.
Godfrey: It’s Die Hard in a football stadium with Dave Bautista and Pierce Brosnan. It’s a really fun Friday night film. Have a curry, watch a video.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 19 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.