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NEW CHANNEL 4 BOSS TO INVEST IN FILM-MAKING
The renaissance of Film4 is set to continue following an emphatic vote of approval from the incoming Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, who has increased the budget of the film financing division by 20 per cent.
The announcement, ahead of tomorrow’s release of the comedy Four Lions, directed by Chris Morris, comes after a period of sustained critical success following hits such as Last King of Scotland, Venus, Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges and Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars at last year’s Academy Awards. Stanley Tucci was nominated at this year’s Oscars for his performance in The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson.
Film 4’s controller Tessa Ross said the news that the division’s annual budget is to be increased from £8m to £10m offered “great hope” for Britain’s filmmakers. Ross has steadily built up the movie financing operation since Channel 4 closed its film production arm, FilmFour Ventures, in 2002 when it was losing £5m a year.
Abraham, who joins the broadcaster from UKTV, said: “Film4 embodies all that’s great about Channel 4’s place in our creative culture. Under my watch, investment in British film will continue to sit at the heart of Channel 4’s public service mission.”
The broadcaster’s reputation as a key player in the British film industry dates back to 1982 when its opening-day schedule included the feature film Walter, starring Ian McKellen as a mentally disabled man. Hits since then have included My Beautiful Laundrette, Trainspotting, Fever Pitch, The Madness of King George, The Motorcycle Diaries and This is England.
On Film 4’s slate for 2010 is the latest project from the writer and director Mike Leigh. Starring Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville, Another Year follows the ups and downs of a happily married middle-aged couple over 12 months.
Then there’s Submarine, written and directed by Richard Ayoade, who is best known as a comedy actor in The IT Crowd. The film, a coming-of-age comedy, features Craig Roberts as a 15-year-old Swansea boy trying to cope with his parents’ impending break-up while he attempts to start a first relationship of his own.
The Japanese filmmaker Hideo Nakata has made the thriller Chatroom, a modern tale of a group of friends who meet online but find that the relationships they later form in the real world are altogether different.
NEDS, written and directed by Peter Mullan (and standing for non-educated delinquents), is the story of a boy who turns from altar server and prize-winning scholar to glue sniffer and knife-wielding thug.
After his success with The Last King of Scotland, the Scottish director Kevin Macdonald returns this year with The Eagle of the Ninth, a Roman epic set north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Film4 is hoping to receive further awards at the Cannes Film Festival, which opens next week. Another Year, Chatroom and Native Son, a short film about a troubled Scottish farm labourer, are all selected for the festival.
Film4’s biggest hits
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Danny Boyle was doubtful when Film4 approached him with an adaptation of the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup. But the strength of the screenplay, about a Mumbai slum teenager who wins the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, convinced him. The film was initially earmarked to go straight to DVD; it went on to win eight Academy Awards and grossed £250m.
Borat (2006) Sacha Baron Cohen’s sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic and gloriously offensive “shockumentary” attracted lawsuits, but the majority were unsuccessful, and none made much of a dent in the film’s £172m global box-office total.
Trainspotting (1996) The story of heroin addicts in Edinburgh marked the major international breakthrough of the actor Ewan McGregor and director Danny Boyle. The film cost £3.5m to make and grossed £72m.