News

Getting Naked Again: Revisiting Mike Leigh’s Naked

Tom Jolliffe takes a look back at Mike Leigh’s 1993 film, Naked

The other day I attended a special screening at The Prince Charles Cinema in London. It was part of a specially curated selection of films (from Nfts) devoted to the vile and unlikeable. The first film of the series was Mike Leigh’s 1993 masterpiece, Naked. Leigh was there himself to introduce the film. It was a passing gesture more than anything, as I always feel of the self-effacing Leigh, that blowing one’s own trumpet isn’t his bag.

He did make mention of the film, in an odd way being a pre-cursor to a string of millennium themed films that would begin to populate cinemas leading up to the turn of the century. There is certainly a degree of fatalism running throughout the film, not least in the central character Johnny, who among other things is near
See full article at Flickeringmyth »

London Calling: Phil Hunt Rocks the Casbah with Head Gear Films

London Calling: Phil Hunt Rocks the Casbah with Head Gear Films
Phil Hunt’s London-based film-financing house Head Gear Films, which launched 15 years ago, has been ramping up its dealmaking activity in recent years. The company provided funding for 55 movies last year, up from five in 2012. Movies backed have included Johnny Depp starrer “Black Mass,” “Trespass Against Us,” starring Michael Fassbender, and John Michael McDonagh’s “War on Everyone,” starring Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena. Hunt tells Variety about how he balances his punk-rock ethos with a careful assessment of the risks inherent in the independent film business.

Hunt, who also co-heads 10-year-old sales company Bankside Films, started out as a photographer in the advertising business in the early 1990s. A punk rocker and Clash devotee at heart, he started to shoot music videos for bands like Big Audio Dynamite, as well as corporate films. From there he pogoed into producing micro-budgeted feature films, starting 20 years ago with “Fast Food,” starring Gerard Butler.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Isa of the Day: Hilary Davis of Bankside Films

Our International Sales Agent (Isa) of the Day coverage has resumed for this year's Cannes Film Festival. We will feature successful, upcoming, innovative and trailblazing agents from around the world (during and after the festival) and cover the latest trends in sales and distribution. Beyond the numbers and deals, this segment will also share inspirational and unique stories of how these individuals have evolved and paved their way in the industry, and what they envision for the new waves in global cinema.

The London based Bankside Films is a newer company on the sales and distribution scene, but don't let it fool you. Its highly talented and experienced team makes this boutique sales agency a leader in the industry. The Bankside Films library consists of 35 films, aside from the titles it's currently selling, including Freeheld, Ashby, and Detour. This year has been its best year with the recent success of Belle, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, and Tom Wilkinson.

Co-Managing Director Hilary Davis shares more about her years and wealth of experience that helps to make Bankside Films a distinguished company in independent cinema, the company's background and latest films, and reflects on trends and changes in the industry:

How did Bankside Films begin?

Bankside Films was formed in January of 2007. We have Stephen Kelliher, who's our head of sales. Stephen and I were working at a company called Beyond Films, it was an Australian company, but we were the film division based in London. While we were there, we started a joint venture with Phil Hunt, whereby he funded a couple of minimum guarantees on our behalf. As a result, we started to put everything under one roof. We started talking about creating a company together, and it happened very quickly. In fact, we were able to transfer the last eight films that Stephen and I had been selling at Beyond Films into the new company. We started out with a small library, and we've been growing it ever since.

We are in the fortunate position of having access to funds, via our main investor, but our core business is international sales. I've been doing it for 32 years now. Stephen has been in the business for 20 years. It's a boutique style company, but we use all our contacts with financiers and filmmakers worldwide to invest in films and actually sell them.

Our library has about 35 titles. That's not including the films we're actively selling, which totals to about eight. We're always looking for English language projects by distinctive filmmakers (we don't do foreign language) of high quality that we believe will be able to sell. We look for films that are unique and of top quality, because that's what the buyers always want. Even if it's a story that's been told many times before, they always want some new slant to it.

What do you look for when considering projects?

We've always had our successes with the more outlandish, left field stories. Whenever we're considering a project, we always have that debate. What is the hook? What is going to appeal to the buyers? We have to think about all these things, and we have to keep a very keen eye on cast. Who's rising? Who's not? Who's good? It is a brutal business, and you're only as good as your last film.

We have to also keep an eye on what's working in the box office, which territories are strong, and which ones are going down. You know it's fascinating, because it gives you a worldview of how territories are doing and who's coming up in terms of countries and economies. You know they've been up and down, and up again.

I think Russia was coming up so strongly and quickly, but now it's declined a little bit. India and China have exploded. Brazil is very strong at the moment. It's always about North America, and the buyers always say to us, "Who's going to distribute your film in America?” so that's still a key country.

How are sales this year?

Our biggest success to date is with Belle, a film that has been a tipping point in our development and has just been released in North America. There's been a lot of press about it in the states. That's going to be released next month on the 13th of June in the UK. We sold that to Fox Searchlight worldwide, in what was a massive deal for us. Frankly, it's been the highlight of our careers, and it's enabled us to move on to the next steps.

We've had our best year ever, and every year in Bankside's development has been an improvement from the previous year. It's been a gradual and steady process of growth. We want to retain our boutique style, and we're never going to become one of these huge companies. That's not who we are. We want to retain that sense of really caring for each film, and remain producer friendly so they'll want to come back to us with their next films. It's hard to do repeat business, but you really build your business when you get the reputation for being very honest, but also very successful. We've spent our careers building our reputations in this way.

Please talk about some of your more recent films.

We've recently done a North American deal with Relativity Media for Hector and the Search for Happiness, which was launched in Berlin this year. It stars Simon Pegg and Toni Collette. That was one of the larger budget films that we worked on, and we invested money into that as well.

We're in post-production on a film called Backtrack, which is an Australian production staring Adrien Brody and Sam Neill. Stephen and I are quite well known in Australia because of our years of experience with Beyond Films. We always have an eye on what's happening in the Australian market, and that's how this film came to us.

Another film in post-production is called X + Y. It's by first time director Morgan Matthews, who has really made his name as a documentarian. He expanded what was a heartfelt documentary into a feature film. We're very pleased with the way it's going, and we're hoping to launch it later in the year. It stars Asa Butterfield and Sally Hawkins.

Please talk about your background.

When I graduated, I saw an advert for a job that said "Film Company. European Languages are an advantage." I could speak French, Italian and Spanish, so I went for the interview. It was the London office and European headquarters of Warner Brothers, and they offered me the job on the spot. That was it, and I was off! I couldn't believe that it was possible to watch films during the day for a job. It was almost too good to be true! I stayed there for 18 months, and then I went to Handmade Films, which was George Harrison's company, and I stayed there for fifteen years. It was the most wonderful company, because it was a production company that would fully finance and distribute films. I started there in 1984, and it was an amazing time. There were about four to five sales companies in London at the time, and now there are over 30. The business has changed so much over the years, but alll these experiences gave me the confidence to start Bankside.

What are some of the biggest changes that you've seen during your career?

There's just more of everything. There are more films, more companies, more producers, and more sellers. This is my 26th Cannes. I think about the past when we didn't have mobile phones. We just got the directions for meetings and stuck with our plans. There wasn't all this last minute "I'm here, where are you?" stuff. I think there's just been an explosion of activity. You see many more films from different cultures and countries. In Cannes, the selectors are so open to that. Look at the range of films in selection; it's quite amazing to see all the varied countries that have films in selection.

I lived in Nice for a year when I was studying, and taught English in a school there. One evening, I took the train from Nice to Cannes during the festival. I was walking around and thought it was so interesting. I never imagined for a moment that I would return in a professional capacity, and now I've been coming back ever since. Seeing Nice from the plane yesterday really took me back to those days. Working in the film business almost feels like a destiny or a fate, especially with my success over the past year... It's just been incredible.

Learn more about the Bankside Films library here.

More About Bankside Films:

Based in London, Bankside is a leading international sales and film finance company for independent films. Founded in January 2007 by Phil Hunt, Hilary Davis, Stephen Kelliher, Greg Cruttwell and Compton Ross, the company offers a bespoke sales and executive producer service to production companies, representing between eight and ten films a year. Bankside¹s principals have built up strong relationships with international distributors and offer a consistent approach to the market with a wide range of genres and budgets. Since its inception, Bankside cash-flows pre-sales, tax credits and finances gap using its knowledge and extensive relationships with international financiers and distributors.
See full article at Sydney's Buzz »

How we made Naked

'We spent weeks in that big house entirely in character – just being really horrible to each other'

Mike Leigh, director

Naked was my big international breakthrough. I'd never had a film in Cannes before – and in 1993, I won best director and David Thewlis took best actor for his extraordinary performance as Johnny. At first, though, the film was called Untitled '92. I was starting to anticipate the millennium: it was obvious it was going to be a big deal, but I didn't know how to treat the subject. I could have made a science-fiction film. But I realised the character of Johnny – a frustrated, idealist drifter who's hacked off with the world – would be a very interesting vehicle for millennial preoccupations.

We prepared for the film in an old office block in Marylebone, London. David was living in Soho, endlessly reading Nostradamus and all the other things Johnny was into.
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Film today: it's a wonderful sequel

Today's film news is going to lasso the moon

On the site today

It's a Wonderful Life to get sequel treatment

• Toxicology tests suggests Brittany Murphy may have ingested poison

Christian Bale offers Ben Affleck advice over Bat-urination

• Alan Turing's niece questions accuracy of upcoming biopic

James Cameron reveals Avatar almost didn't get made

Alex Cox is writing about The Parallax View and 1970s conspiracy movies

• Cine-files bigs up the Phoenix in Dingle, Co Kerry

• Quiz: in homage to Scarlett Johannson's role in Her, it's guess the voice

• Q&A with our one-minute film competition winner Fin McMorran. (The winning film is called Heat; go on, take a look.)

You may have missed

• Disney banned Walt Disney from smoking in Saving Mr Banks

Mike Leigh and Greg Cruttwell on making Naked

• Al Pacino as the vampire Lestat? Which alternative casting would you most like to see?

• Fifty-year battle over James
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Blu-ray Review: Naked (Criterion Collection)

In the past few years I've fallen in love with Mike Leigh's work. The first film of his I saw was 2004's Vera Drake, a dark and disturbing picture that doesn't necessarily represent the side of Leigh I love, but is nonetheless a powerful film. It wasn't until Happy-Go-Lucky in 2008 that I saw my second Leigh feature and the sheer lust for life that was exhibited in that film from Sally Hawkins' performance to Leigh's script won me over. Since then I've enjoyed Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Another Year and now Naked as Criterion has upgraded their 2005 DVD edition to a beautiful Blu-ray transfer, that allows for Leigh's direction and script to shine along with powerful performances and Dick Pope's wonderful cinematography.

However, I won't be quick to recommend Naked as a blind buy. This film is an alt-Happy-Go-Lucky and hues closer to Vera Drake in its darker tone as Johnny,
See full article at Rope Of Silicon »

New Blu-ray and DVD Releases: July 12th

Rank the week of July 12th’s Blu-ray and DVD new releases against the best films of all-time: New Releases Arthur

(DVD and Blu-ray | PG13 | 2011)

Flickchart Ranking: #5711

Times Ranked: 827

Win Percentage: 52%

Top-20 Rankings: 6

Directed By: Jason Winer

Starring: Russell BrandHelen MirrenGreta GerwigJennifer GarnerLuis Guzman

Genres: Comedy • Farce

Rank This Movie

The Lincoln Lawyer

(DVD and Blu-ray | R | 2011)

Flickchart Ranking: #2807

Times Ranked: 1535

Win Percentage: 55%

Top-20 Rankings: 6

Directed By: Brad Furman

Starring: Matthew McConaugheyMarisa TomeiRyan PhillippeWilliam H. MacyJohn Leguizamo

Genres: Drama • Psychological ThrillerThriller

Rank This Movie

Rango

(DVD and Blu-ray | PG | 2011)

Flickchart Ranking: #595

Times Ranked: 5790

Win Percentage: 38%

Top-20 Rankings: 18

Directed By: Gore Verbinski

Starring: Johnny DeppIsla FisherAbigail BreslinNed BeattyAlfred Molina

Genres: Action • Adventure • Animation • Comedy • Family-Oriented Adventure • Family-Oriented Comedy • Western

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Insidious

(DVD and Blu-ray | PG13 | 2010)

Flickchart Ranking: #3119

Times Ranked: 1785

Win Percentage: 52%

Top-20 Rankings: 6

Directed By: James Wan
See full article at Flickchart »

Head Gear + Beyond = Bankside Films

LONDON -- U.K.-based production and finance banner Head Gear Films has absorbed the management team of Beyond Films in kickstarting new international sales outfit Bankside Films, Head Gear said Tuesday.

Head Gear founders -- Phil Hunt, Greg Cruttwell and Compton Ross -- pacted with Beyond veterans Hilary Davis and Stephen Kelliher in co-founding the new unit.

Davis becomes co-managing director of Bankside, with Kelliher taking on the role of director, sales and marketing.

Hunt, who will co-manage the startup arm, said that setting up the new sales unit was part of an overall strategy to build "a vertically integrated film business."

"Expanding in 2006 from producing to a financing arm and now with the launch of the sales company, we are delighted to have attracted such leaders in their field as Hilary and Stephen To head up our new division," Hunt said.

Joining them at Bankside is former Beyond executive Antonio Salas, who takes up the reins as sales and acquisitions assistant, and Maria Carrion, who will coordinate acquisitions for the new company while continuing in her duties as Head Gear production boss.

Head Gear aiming high with 'Rabbit'

BERLIN -- An oil man, a music-loving indie producer and an actor-turned-screenwriter all based in the United Kingdom might seem like an unlikely trio to back an up-and-coming Berlin-based Mexican director. But this triumvirate comprises London-based independent production and financing operation Head Gear, which produced Jorge Ramirez-Suarez's Rabbit on the Moon, set to unspool here Friday in a Special Screening. Run by producer Phil Hunt and multihyphenate Greg Cruttwell and backed by cash from Scotland-based oil man Compton Ross, Head Gear persuaded high-end U.K. sales and financing house Capitol Films to pitch international sales on Rabbit during the European Film Market.

Film review: 'George of the Jungle'

Film review: 'George of the Jungle'
Tap those bongos now for "George, George, George of the Jungle," as Disney's vine-swinging, long-haired inhabitant of the deep bush catapults into action in this deliriously daffy family film, starring Brendan Fraser as the good-hearted but accident-prone George. The word-of-mouth beat will travel far and wide as Buena Vista should tap a roar of approval among kids, as well as we more subversive taller people, for this brainy dumb-stuff.

From the fertile and slyly satiric imagination of the late Jay Ward, who developed the "George of the Jungle" characters into a memorable late-1960s cartoon series, the screenwriting duo of Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells has sagely transmogrified "George" to a contemporary jungle man, replete with many of the same problems the modern male is confronted with -- namely the incursions of the civilized world. To George's '90s treehouse abode come not explorers and slavers but, rather, a pair of rich twits (Leslie Mann, Thomas Haden Church), a Brahmin couple from San Francisco who are on a prenuptial safari. Goosed with some daffy, albeit prototypical comic characters such as two dunderheaded poachers and some devilishly deadpan guides who are great levelers of the simple safari folks' pretensions, "George" is a nimble blend of high-flying farce and screwy social satire.

For the film scholars in attendance too young to have savored the delights of such ancient comedy classics as "Crocodile Dundee II", there's even a high-wire, farcical midsection where George is swept away to the City by the Bay when the uppity Ursula decides he is the man for her. While Ursula tries to outfit George in the finery and ways of her tony upbringing, he of course takes a more direct approach to the mores and nuances of San Francisco high life. Most wonderfully, it's snooty San Francisco that takes it on the chin in this breezy send-up of modern-day life.

Will George escape San Francisco unscathed by the unnatural ways and odd conventions of 20th century sophistication? Will he swing freely with this honor and integrity intact among his good friends the wise Ape, the tookie tookie bird and his trusty elephant, Shep? What will gentle George learn about love? Without tipping off the plot to all the development people out there who can't figure out where the "whammy" points are, let's just say that it's George, not that Greek muscleman, who will most likely emerge as Disney's most potent and likable summer hero.

Since it's not our policy to bray negatively on a movie that boasts an elephant that scampers and bounds around like a big puppy, we'll merely mention that the visual special effects under the supervision of Tim Landry are expert and inspired. In fact, director Sam Weisman's balancing act between the zany story and the clever technical contributions is sharp and sweet. Best of all, credit to Fraser for his high-flying, good-hearted performance as gentle, heroic George.

Cast a net of praise also around Mann and Church for their nutty performances as the ultra-snooty couple and to John Cleese for his Tory-ish voicing of an ape named Ape. The other players are a similarly inspired and off-the-wall bunch, including Richard Roundtree as a condescending guide and, of course, the tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dumber comic bad-guy duo of Greg Cruttwell and Abraham Benrubi.

Marc Shaiman's zesty music, braced by the jaunty theme song, has enough bounce and pizazz to launch a score of toe-tappers' conventions.

GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE

Buena Vista

Walt Disney Pictures

Producers David Hoberman,

Jordan Kerner, Jon Avnet

Director Sam Weisman

Screenwriters Dana Olsen, Audrey Wells

Story Dana Olsen

Based upon characters created by Jay Ward

Director of photography Thomas Ackerman

Production designer Stephen Marsh

Editors Stuart Pappe, Roger Bondelli

Music Marc Shaiman

Executive producer C. Tad Devlin

Visual effects supervisor Tim Landry

Co-producer Lou Arkoff

Costume designer Lisa Jensen

Casting Amanda Mackey Johnson,

Cathy Sandrich

Production sound David Kelson

Color/stereo

Cast:

George Brendan Fraser

Ursula Stanhope Leslie Mann

Lyle Van de Groot Thomas Haden Church

Kwame Richard Roundtree

Max Greg Cruttwell

Thor Abraham Benrubi

Beatrice Stanhope Holland Taylor

Betsy Kelly Miller

Arthur Stanhope John Bennett Perry

Voice of Ape John Cleese

Running time -- 92 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

See also

Credited With | External Sites