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LONDON – Will Clarke, the founder of British producer and distribution banner Optimum Releasing who subsequently orchestrated his company’s multi-million dollar sale to StudioCanal, has formed Altitude Film Entertainment, a production-led movie banner, partnering with rising British filmmaking star James Watkins.
Watkins, basking in the box office glow of the Daniel Radcliffe starrer The Woman In Black, joins Clarke’s newly formed company, alongside a duo of familiar industry faces.
Partnering Altitude chairman and CEO Clarke on the management side of Altitude is former Exclusive Media managing director and chief financial officer Andy Mayson and veteran sales maestro Mike Runagall, most recently Pathe International svp, international sales.
The trio, alongside Watkins, hope to form “creative partnerships” with a host of talent, established and new, to movies with a “strong commercial outlook.”
The Altitude team will kick start the plans with an adaptation of John Niven‘s cult music industry darkly comic satirical novel Kill Your Friends, from the author’s own script.
Owen Harris, who directed TV comedy drama Holy Flying Circus about the outraged response to Monty Python‘s The Life of Brian for BBC Films, will helm the project while Gregor Cameron, whose TV comedy resume boasts Goin’ Down To South Park and Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show, produces for Altitude.
Clarke told THR the picture will shoot later this year and it is being cast over the next few weeks.
The team is also developing The Loch, billed as a terrifying, bold new take on the Loch Ness monster myth with Watkins.
The filmmaker, who made teen terror movie Eden Lake before tackling The Woman In Black, is co-writing with first-time filmmaker Simon Duric for Duric to direct.
“In addition to producing and financing films that James may write and direct, we want to be able to co-develop projects together which will be made by other filmmakers,” Clarke said.
The duo worked on Eden Lake together while Clarke was at StudioCanal.
“We are both passionate about discovering the next generation of film talent and helping them to make their films. Our partnership also leaves James free to work on other projects,” added Clarke.
Altitude has also sealed creative links with playwright Matt Charman and director Ben Craig to bring action adventure “in the mould of classic Speilberg” Mythica to the big screen.
Craig will make his movie debut having wowed short film aficionados with his sci-fi and silent short Modern Times while Charman, who is writing the script was one of the National Theater’s writers in residence and saw plays The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder and The Observer debut at the London theater.
Altitude co-CEO Mayson will be charged with running the production funding setup and is currently investigating various mechanisms to establish a fund capable of handling a slate of projects including an Enterprise Investment Scheme fund structure.
Altitude Film Sales managing director Runagall heads up international sales efforts and aims to bring market nous to the table when the team is deciding on greenlight and filmmaker-led project proposals.
Runagall told THR he aims to debut the sales roster – made up of between 30 to 40 percent of self-originated material and third party pickups – during Toronto and then the American Film Market later this year.
Clarke, who made much of his name and reputation in the international arena by spearheading acquisitions for Optimum building the company over more than 10 years with savvy buys, said distribution would be a “medium term” business aim.
“We’ll strike distribution deals on a case-by-case basis for now and because of our [Runagall and Mayson] collective experience, we will be able to really help bring the films to the market with the distributors,” Clarke said.
Runagall said the key for him will be assessing the projects with market knowledge behind the decisions.
“Now, more than ever, distributors are looking for more than just a quick sale and need the assurance that their partners will deliver. So our focus will be on quality, commercially driven projects for the international market place,” Runagall said.
Mayson said the business model will allow the company “to be nimble” and able to make decisions efficiently with talent in mind.
“Our way of working with filmmakers and the types of relationships that we want to build with them will focus heavily on partnership and equality, transparency and efficiency, providing financing and creative support,” Mayson said.
The Altitude management trio are set to travel to the Festival de Cannes and the Marche du Film next week armed with business cards and bulging little black books of contacts to tap up on the Croisette.
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