U.K. Film Council doles out $3 mil

15 companies with 'vision' to share development funds

LONDON -- Christmas came early for a host of established producers as the U.K. Film Council dished out more than 2 million pounds ($3 million) in development funding across 15 handpicked production companies.

Beneficiaries of the latest cash handout from the Council fund include Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae, who run Ecosse Films and are prepping the John Lennon biopic "Nowhere Boy." Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin's Blueprint Pictures banner, launched in 2004, also grabbed a share of the cash bonanza. Blueprint recently produced "Becoming Jane" and Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges," which opened this year's Sundance Film Festival.

The Council said the latest round of funding, comprising handouts of as much as 150,000 pounds ($225,000) apiece, is part of the development fund's Production Company Vision Awards, billed as a new initiative "designed to help creative producers with a vision for the future of U.K. film."

The aim is for the producers and banners "to develop projects that will broaden the quality, range and ambition of films and talents being developed in the U.K." One of the criteria was that any company applying for cash had to have made a least one feature that has secured theatrical distribution.

Also on the list is former BBC Films chief David Thompson's startup banner Origin Pictures, which is executive producing Armando Iannucci's "In the Loop," Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" and Martin Campbell's "Edge of Darkness." Former PolyGram Filmed Entertainment president Michael Kuhn also made the list, with his Qwerty Films banner securing cash. Kuhn's outfit is behind Saul Dibb's "The Duchess," Johnny Campbell's "Alien Autopsy" and Chris Smith's "Severance."

"Given the strength of those who applied, we have decided to give 15 awards, rather than the 10 originally envisaged," development fund chief Tanya Seghatchian said. "We hope that by enabling producers to benefit from research-and-development funding, with a degree of flexibility and autonomy, they will work with us to build a more dynamic, talent-driven home for filmmakers."

More than 90 companies applied for funding.