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by Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London
Adrian Wootton: Well, I’d like to take the opportunity to, first of all I don’t think to make an introduction to Jeremy so much, you’ve all seen the very impressive credentials and profile on Jeremy that are in the PFM booklet, but I think it is important to understand why we invited Jeremy to talk to us today, and to talk to you today. Jeremy is a huge supporter of the PFM, he and his team have been here every year since inception and have contributed because of his position, previous, as a board member, but it is very important to have someone like Jeremy here, right at the moment, not just because of the tumult of the British film industry, but because Jeremy is one of our most distinguished, significant independent producers and he is very much a world producer, a person who is engaged in world cinema. If there is anybody who is less of a Little Englander, it’s Jeremy Thomas. And I think that from our point of view it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to share his thoughts and his ideas about how he works and how his company works. And so… format is very straightforward, I’m going to ask Jeremy some questions about his career and particularly about his work right now, and then I’m going to give you the opportunity to ask him questions about anything and everything. I hope we won’t stray too far into reminiscence or also too far into speculation about the future of the film industry. But I’m sure there’ll be a bit of both in there as we go through. So, Jeremy I wanted to kick off, thank you very much for coming it’s great to have you here, to kick off by basically saying… asking you to explain a little bit about… in a sense about your business and creative philosophy. You seem to me as a producer, and your company Recorded Picture Company is not a company that works like a lot of companies in the UK, you’ve always been what people would describe as a creative producer and you seem very much talent driven, director driven, relationship driven, rather than about speculative scripts, you have long relationships with talent, with particular creative filmmakers which is a much more European way of thinking about cinema. It’s a pretentious phrase, but kind of “auteur driven” cinema. And I just wondered, how did that philosophy arise, how did you establish that philosophy in terms of working and what does it mean about how you develop projects and about how you finance projects, that philosophy.
So when I started my career. through the technical side of the film business and then eventually producing films. and I was sort of by his side playing initially and then observing. it’s most likely to be based on the relationship with the filmmaker? JT: Yes. the ability to try and select films. your own computer programme.Jeremy Thomas: Well. Because at one point in my career. a film business. Because if in the old days a patron asked an artist to paint a painting. but there are enough people who share the idea. I saw the light of what the film business is. And I was very lucky that early on in my career I found a partner. he would have 2 . after half a dozen or a dozen movies. because I will somehow attach myself or choose to make films that are definitely not in terms of the market mainstream commercial films. And you either have it or you don’t have it. film producers should have a skill so they act as a patron. The structure of what films are and what they are to be. Because I loved my dad and he was very good father in that he opened up what he was doing to me from an early age. I was always thinking about the idea behind the movie. just going one by one and never creating any asset. I don’t think it’s something that you can explain to people or you can teach people. The word “taste” is overused so I don’t know if I want to use that. But as soon as I understood… this is a business in which you have to self-educate. it’s really subconscious and auto-pilot in the choosing of it. because I was choosing based purely on my own taste. that randomly takes these elements from your brain to lead you to decide what to do. am I right in thinking that it’s most likely in you to not be about spec scripts based on options you have on things. I was always worried: “How can I make another film. and he treated me more as a talent than a pure businessman. my father was a film director. or several films because. And I recently saw written in the papers something using the word “taste”. and then suddenly the cloud lifts and you can see clearly. that you are able to go down the path that you want to go. but it’s probably a combination of factors that are brought together in your brain like a computer programme. I’m sure many of you have heard me say this before. who was very protective of me as a creator. the first movie was a desperate act. maybe not the first movie. And like everything in life things are not clear. but it’s more likely that the film is going to be a good film and that you are going to get what you initially anticipated when you thought of the idea if you do it with a director. apart from the theory. called Terry Glinwood. And I was given an atmosphere where I could thrive creatively and help directors express themselves. how can I make another film?” And I don’t really worry about that anymore and I haven’t worried about that for maybe twenty years. Because I always know that I’ll find a way to do it. it’s a combination of ideas. I think it’s something that you have. So. so that’s really been subconscious. I started building the idea of business around the film. Especially a director who’s made a lot of films. So I grew up respecting film directors. AW: But in terms of development. because I realised it was very hard to sustain a business.
you have a basic idea in mind of what it’s going to look like. And it’s very different to what we make in Europe or world cinema outside of that system. And that is a film that is profitable to me. say. to not… you could have gone down that route. the studio came to try and close the film down. that it wasn’t any good for me. working for somebody else and doing somebody’s bidding. it’s something that continues forever. And the director is helped. as long as it is a very good technical director there is an enormous amount of superstructure around the filmmaker to make sure it doesn’t go wrong. which is to sort of stave that off. I hate to say it. it’s an absolute winner if you can get the money to break even. which is a more what I’d call an industrialised system of filmmaking. And that’s what I really enjoy and that’s why I am so I focused on that. this film. with a studio. but it’s something … you know. certainly at the setting up level of cinema. very large supermarket shelf. because you know the work. which is a preplanned product that is aimed at a very. And to me a profitable film or a successful film is one that has broken even and everybody has made distribution fees. in terms of your history. unless you are very successful and live in Hollywood. your company. And that’s been. 3 . your knowledge. I understood. what am I going to get from this director. Well. the studio system. unable to do anything like an independent producer can do. And that is a different concept to. with this work. in a very difficult situation with artists and directors and actors and you’re put in that position as a sort of buffer. And I don’t know that I can determine mainstream Hollywood films. and you’re just. and with this situation”. having made one film with a studio. I try to be very realistic about the ambitions of my films that I’m involved with. in the studio system. And you have a different spirit. a film that breaks even. I would have thought. And I thought. and with this material. It’s not like a theatre production. And if you start with a director you are much more likely to be there than if you start with your own thoughts. because early on. you are unlikely to get anything more than a manufacturing deal.” And if you make a film. JT: Well I don’t think I could be competitive in that. anybody who makes independent films probably already knows this. And I’m right in thinking that you’ve never wanted to do that. you dream that your films are going to get that sort of exposure. having developed a relationship. If you had Picasso or Lucian Freud to do a painting. terrible feeling. and then you join somebody else’s thoughts to it. And yet you don’t really have full control. and then it has an incredible value. And also you have a different feeling with the people that make the film. it has a very long life. AW: But you made a deliberate. On the only film that I did with a studio. a very awkward feeling. anyway). “Well. going.some idea of what the painting would be like. And so it’s a combination of bringing those things together as a producer. because you’re not working for the company store. conscious decision (I think it was a conscious decision. “I know my place. I know my place in cinema. we were completely powerless. a glorified production manager.
So challenging films to me are obvious because nobody else is doing them. But then with Cronenberg I saw maybe you can make it. that is where I plan. which was incredibly powerful and un-filmable. you can do it. I mean you are a man who’s known for ongoing relationships with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci and obviously David Cronenberg. Dead Ringers. and I thought it was going to be an irresistible product for others. JT: But to go back to what I was saying about the patron/painting… David Cronenberg and I were in Toronto. “well. and you fit a gap in the market. if anyone had said originally. So it’s very hard to think of another filmmaker. I believe. And the same with Crash. who you’ve just made another film with. It was an un-filmable novel… it was un-filmable by anybody else but David Cronenberg. But you’ve also taken huge risks in optioning and allowing them to make what most people would regard as un-filmable works. we talked about your relationship with established filmmakers. Up until a few years ago that area of cinema was very successful. because often the material is more controversial but the taste is still very wide in the general public. I mean. you know. it’s had a very long life and it still sells well on DVD. for example you would have an enormous amount of successful art house films. which are un-filmable ideas. and I think that when choice becomes easier for people to decide. But they’re being fed a diet by marketing rather than by choice. you saw what that film was going to be… in fact. I can’t really put my finger on why 4 . externally at least. Harder on TV. we’ll make a film of Naked Lunch. is you seem to take huge risks. and people were enjoying them as they were in America. I had read the book when it came out.” and I had seen Videodrome and his earlier films and of course I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t spot the potential of David Cronenberg making Naked Lunch. You’re aiming for the gap in programming in cinemas and on the video shelves. where you are very exposed and weak. and I think it’s very good for independent cinemas to go to places where a bigger film can’t go. which is happening now… actually it was at a time where there were a lot of cinemas and a lot of choice in London. he said to me “I want to do Naked Lunch. Somehow. showing in cinemas all over London. with many distributors making multi-million dollar grosses. I know he can do it. filmed. Art house.” arguably two of the most un-filmable books ever to be written… that’s something Hollywood would never do. which is to say films that are not in the pure mainstream. AW: You know. the basis of my longevity. but as soon as you put David Cronenberg’s name with Naked Lunch and William Burroughs.I suppose underneath. we’ll make a film of Crash. made popular even and put into the mainstream. it wasn’t a great result at the box office at the time but I thought it was an irresistible product for me. one of the things you’ve also done. In fact. And if you think of the other films Cronenberg’s done. of course. that I understood early on that a producer has to have some sort of asset and not just go onto the market one by one.
had a very unique relationship with a partner. with a sales agency. but I don’t believe people’s choices or tastes have changed so dramatically. getting involved myself without having to spend any time in the manufacturing of the films. not necessarily the man on the street. you then essentially created a sales agency of your own. every producer needs access to his market. 5 . really without any sort of specific plan of creating a big sales company in the UK. Something has happened in the way that people are being delivered movies and how they want to watch them. when you go see a film like Inception in the multiplex. but you need access to the people who do that and you need it in great numbers because otherwise you will make maybe 40 arrangements on an independent movie. so he was very generous. And HanWay is very useful for me to make the films that I’m producing myself and other films I want to be involved in.exactly. it organically grew. And so. since early on in my career. that has really narrowed down. JT: Well. So I understood one of the main relationships you need. which of course we’ll come to. is a relationship with someone who is going to access the market for you. And then other people went out of business around us. I understood the producer is the sales company. can enjoy them like that and walk them through the festival circuit. And I just wondered if you could talk about how important Hanway is in terms of your business philosophy and how it helps and strengthens your production entity. it’s the same thing. apart from the main talent. Then I had a little period when there was a very lavish film industry and I got very well looked after by French companies for about five years.” And then again. like the Skolimowski films. I said. And when those came to a close. And then along the path is HanWay Films. you obviously. for other people’s use as well as mine. And I do accept that in the age of Inception. and I can spend my time promoting them. You are either doing that through another company or you’re doing it through the terms of trade that you get. like the Takashi Miike. but it’s a crucial element of what I’d see from the UK that a producer can deliver. it was right for me to do because Terry Glinwood had retired and luckily he made it available to me so that I could have the films that we had made together and continue selling them myself. And we made an arrangement that I continue with the negatives that we had made and created together. My relationships with the heads of festivals are more important to me than heads of studios. you are a producer/sales company. a producer is a salesman and it just grew. it is a very difficult competition for us and I understand that. AW: In terms of the market. as you said. Or you do it yourself. a simple story that has macro tendencies. you mention Glinwood. “I’ll just start selling my own films. And I didn’t need a sales company because I was able to sustain my business through the arrangements I’d made in France. so we became one of the few sales companies in England and that’s really what happened to HanWay.
which I really enjoy. design and business. I disdained business. And it’s the traditional idea of the vulgarity of the cigar ash. nothing is easy. choosing the films is a nightmare and the whole business is a nightmare. first of all. something that. And that includes the director. If you are an independent you have to do it all yourself. you know. and they act like a producer. you know. as a good leftie. You know the producer is either a producer or the studio. the departments in there. you had a distribution company. AW: And just… I mean. it sounds beautifully simple about the relationship with the French companies. raising money for films is a nightmare. and then the other sales companies went bust and I got a very successful sales company. they were all people who were a sub-human breed. you’re in a game that involves photography. barking information to people… but without a producer a film doesn’t exist. in accounting and in legal. But the studio is also a producer. I’ve chosen people that have known a lot more than me in production. Would you have liked to have had a distribution company and continued in distribution or are you rather glad. which includes supervising. I learnt from them and it’s always very important to have people who know more than you with you. but. well it’s not fair to say you’ve flirted with but what you’ve been involved in to a greater or lesser extent is actually distribution. literature. you romanticise everything that happens in your life after it happens. And I’ve been lucky in choosing these people because. raising the money by yourself or with a group of people. no man is an island and I’ve got a group of people who know areas that I don’t know. it’s better than working. they do everything. Initially when I started in the film business. you’ve had relationships with distribution companies but you pulled away from that at a certain point. but where you do have a very successful sales company you haven’t entered the realms of distribution. 6 . they do the production schedule. which I do know now. and obviously that is what happened but it sounds very plain sailing and I’m just wondering how… JT: No. And that’s really the truth. you do a film with a studio they do the budgeting for you. Because whatever job you do in the movie business. from the beginning of my career. we talked about sales and we’ll come back to festivals because obviously we are in the middle of the BFI London Film Festival and this event is presented in association with them. so we’ll come back to that in a minute but I wanted just following on from sales. But. young filmmaker. it’s all done for you. I have probably chosen the colleagues that I’ve worked with very well. And in all the areas that I didn’t know. that you aren’t in that business at the moment.AW: We will come back to that. considering the state of the market. And setting up movies is a nightmare. they do everything for you. I’ve been very lucky to have a group of wonderful colleagues.
as DVD and TV sales are very low. can I set it up by using money from …” No film can be set up. You announce it. “How am I going to make films for another twenty years?” I want to. I’m in a constant change of movement with what I’m doing and I’m thinking every day about having to improve and refine. And that is why European filmmakers sensibly focus on co-production. I’m thinking. sold worldwide. due to the incredible amount of cash needed to create one object. because it’s such an expensive item that you are creating. a 10 million Bertolucci film. And it’s been collapsing all over the world and at the moment we are seeing it very bad in the US. except possibly a Bertolucci film can be set up in the marketplace where you sell it for what it costs. which you hope will come back. maybe an independent Tarantino movie. It was taking control of your destiny in all areas and not having to deal with anybody except the end user. it is very difficult and you have to find soft money. then I would have been integrated. And that is what I was trying to achieve. or die. I hit the business at the wrong moment. And of course I wish it had been successful. a film. which has traditionally been a very important market for UK producers because it’s English language. And I lost a lot of money and it would have been ideal for me in my home territory to be able to do a complete service. my ideal dream of course. light recoupment money in your film today if it’s anything more than 4 million. “How am I going to set this up.JT: Well no. Then when we were starting the distribution company. but I failed. a movie from half a dozen people. And you have to mutate yourself in what your choices are. Maybe I will. I’m always thinking. and people are comparing the film business with the music business all the time in its decline. The pressures are not like any other creative business. “Who is going to see my film? And how am I going to get my film seen and how am I going to finance my film?” And when I’m reading on deciding what films to make in that hard drive. I wanted to be a successful distributor. have some really enjoyable people working and we distributed some good films… it was a plan. which includes business because you have to get the money. get some good movies. which I do all the time and that’s the only way I can do it with the market collapsing in several countries at once. that is the ugly truth of it . believe it or not. thinking. it’s horrible to say. I enjoy making films. And European filmmaking. it’s true. because you can access two or three systems for your film. So that is what I’m thinking about for the future and how I believe a producer needs to think. And you can’t really compare it. is 7 . and a very different cost. That would never happen today. a film producer. although I would not say it’s always the case. You also need to be a futurologist.well. it hasn’t really risen yet.the money is overly dominant. you can’t believe it. with the desperation to make a movie. from optioning the rights through to the distribution of films. But for the rest of filmmakers. that hopefully it will rise from the ashes again . I’m still in that place. It’s a completely different object. all aspects of it. Now it’s a very difficult moment. it’s my favourite part of my business and my career and that’s what I am principally. you have to find a sort of second position of recoupment. you know. DVD hadn’t really taken off and we were in a moment of change when that company ended and it was a mistake but the concept was great: own some cinemas.
when we talked about this a while ago. and also about the terms of trade and the kind of recoupment position and PACT has a very well publicised position on an increased return and an increased control of IP back to the producers. JT: I definitely think that we need another pot of funding in the UK. And I do think that it should be kinder because film producers need some money. and then focus was put on subsidy. you’ve got to be able to go out and be an entrepreneur. you said perhaps those finders should be “kinder” to producers and I wondered whether you could elaborate on that and what you think of that. You’ve got to be able to travel. the BBC. you are someone who has raised funding from sources all over the world. all over the UK. more public money recoupment going back to the producer. film courses. in terms of the market. then the top of the pyramid is cut off and you think it’s going to get there but it’s not there anymore. And it’s an illusion. I just wondered what your view is on that in a sense what you think of this idea. The actual definition of a film producer is someone who can spend. and for people to understand that they can get some resources for films. The government need to create an atmosphere that is conducive and part of that atmosphere is well-administered funds for a country that needs some funds. I’m not going to. which of course means that there’s very little money left. and they see a lack of income in distributing those films in the US domestic market. we’re not going to speculate about the British industry per se but I want to ask you something we talked about in the light of your talk about soft money and obviously because of what’s happened with the Film Council there’s an awful lot of conversations about what’s happened about those doorways. the UK Film Council lottery funding. and I just wondered at this moment in time. not be scrubbing around.somewhat protected by language. so that was all unified in Cannes. I think. “take the crumb here. and government has created a huge amount of education in cinema and created a sort of illusion to this generation of people with these sort of media studies. We want some of that subsidy as well and we can make local language films distributing through our systems. So there 8 . producers talking about the need of there still being a third doorway. You said to me. through Skillset and this set and that set… what we really need is some resources for people to make films in some sort of non-cloudy way. because there’s a lot of suffering going on from people who are making films. Channel 4. but the UK market is special because it’s English language and therefore it has the difficulties as well as some benefits. AW: In terms of the UK. therefore it’s a sort of fraud in a way to educate all these students. Which they are always aspiring to. although obviously it’s a good signal that the studios want to enter our sort of market.” so anything that has some income in it. So we are very challenged. Close down any film studies in the UK if you can’t possibly have an answer to that. there’s like a crumb. flash some cash. you have tapped into UK sources but you’ve never been dependent on it. take people out to places. because there’s a need to have local language films. so it’s.
you just talked about it. And it doesn’t really sustain a film production company. So I need to sustain my business some way. they are very. a film cannot be made without a producer. but to be an operating business is something that is very hard for people to get together. are not appreciated in terms of the entrepreneurship. which includes financial credit. or the new Film Council or whoever. that they know absolutely nothing about the film business and therefore it’s a very hard thing that they conceptualise… because every film needs a producer.has to be a way that people can earn more money out of the movie business. because I think there is this holy grail that is constantly being talked about. I admit that it’s something that is fading. But it’s very hard. When you see this incredible product coming out of the UK. very modest. But there are not enough. Do you think that is the key. I cannot explain how I’ve managed to do that but part of it is having the ability to earn some money. And that’s never taken into account and why I felt the Film Council. And when you look at the sort of fee structures of what is allowed with the various funding bodies. well. And it’s just the way that the film business is structured that the producers don’t have any recognition on a film whatsoever. The producer is the person who is 9 . AW: I just want to pursue that. going back. yes it can sustain somebody in the back room of a house and a phone. And the auteur idea is declining. for fifty-two weeks of a year. I feel as a producer myself. about the sustainability of film production companies of the business. in terms of sustaining the film business in the future? JT: I do think that. in the UK very few. Often the problem is with the people who run or conceptualise these organisations. I’ve managed to carve some place for myself as a known producer. though it’s been something that I’ve adored and loved and promoted. but also have some money to be an entrepreneur. should make it possible for producers to sustain themselves in the period when they are not working on a movie. producers are not an admired breed. And obviously PACT’s argument is very much that if there was a greater investment coming back to the producer it may over the course of a decade create more sustainable film businesses because that investment would flow back into those companies. Of course you’ve got to pay your mortgage and pay for your clothing. Because a producer is probably paid the same as a DOP on a movie in the UK system and yet has to sustain two years of work on the movie. and that is one reason I feel our business is maybe not seen to be as healthy as it really is. The producer’s era seems to be something that is very much in vogue today and a creative producer needs some sort of a beacon of possibility to sustain their business. the producers. Unless you sort of force yourself into it and promote yourself there’s no way that a producer can get any credit from anybody. no recognition. you can but there are very few recognized producers. it’s not like that currently. it seems to me maybe de rigeur. because I think it is very important.
the government set-up of film. you’d made the film. because there are questions and I think time is getting on. although people do get to the top of the mountain. it’s closing the finance on every movie. John Terry and John Davies or whoever signs the deal and that was it. a burning question they’d like to ask Jeremy right away? Otherwise I will ask this question but if somebody wants to put their hand up…. Question: Hi there. You said that you thought that the heads of festivals were more important than the heads of studios. Two people closing a meeting shook hands. So has anybody got any question. yeah. And today. it should consist of people who can really aid a producer in this incredibly complex and dangerous moment. in the distant past when there were many companies in the UK that would put up to 50 per cent of the budget of a movie. Oh. there was no challenge. And historically I’ve found that there’s been a lot positioning of aid. It’s like an impossible mountain to climb today. For the audience here that may come as a surprising comment. but that person is not coddled at all. An impossible mountain to climb. Faced or face? Faced. say you had the National Film Finance Corporation and the Rank Corporation distributing. JT: I think that it was in a talk I gave at the AFI last year that I said some controversial remark. That is the biggest challenge. AW: I’m going to wrap it up. due to your work and the things that you’ve made. which was: “Don’t bother to waste the air ticket or the stamp sending your film script or your 10 . it was positioned harder than the economy outside and that’s why I felt support is needed. JT: In the past? Well you know it’s closing every movie. Why do you think that festivals are so important and the heads of festivals so important. is what makes it very challenging. When you had two financiers in the past. I built my own world. so I can coddle myself. And I’m talking from my own point of view and that’s why. AW: Somebody wanted to ask a question… I’m going to ask Jeremy then about festivals while you’re pondering another question. there is. consciously and subconsciously. with the multiple closings and the recoupment positions and waterfalls of money and all the various things. great.going to put the resources together. it was very certain. a very interesting talk. I was just wondering what was the biggest challenge that you’ve faced? AW: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve…. I’m going to come back to you about film festivals but I’m not going to ask you that question yet. And in the new set-up. because I think that the producers who are striving to make films in the UK need that support rather than the destabilisation on the business end. it‘s only the talent that is coddled.
And you may kick a goal. Because it’s very expensive and the studio system – I’m not against the studio system and all my statements are from the point of view of an independent producer – is spending the same budget launching the film as the film costs. I saw him doing that with his films. with The Shout. and I’ve been using that throughout my career. AW: The relationship… well.” it got bought all over the world and everything happened well. and the world press are there. once a film is made then is sold to a distributor and often. And you can get your press conference and be the main story in the newspapers. “Who can I send my film to?” Well. in the Palais or the Palazzo di Cinema or wherever it may be. putting my films through festivals and getting to the other side alive. And it’s a really recommended route. you can score a bulls-eye and you can get a film recognised worldwide and you can be on the same playing field. all over the world you are being talked about. I was just wondering if you had any advice on all… on the next step. $200 million. Then one day in the Palais de Cannes you are next to a huge film. even a short gets recognised. it took hold. and you show your film. And if you go to the London Film Festival. And if you have a knowledge of how to promote your films. that’s the way you get recognised. and all the knowledge that you have in film business is connected. to promote movies. your little team. $100 million. by me. And that has been a very recommended route for me. from Paris to Reykjavik. but I also see the light. for a pre-sale. one thing that you can do with your film. and playing the festival game is an important game for me. it’s a delicate balance of strategy. is to send it to a first rate festival and then for one day you are the main event.” And therefore you are thinking. And that’s the place where I exist the best. 11 . and then you sell the film. there are films that are released at the same time of the year. And I understood that early on. the second film I produced: “Wow. I accompanied him on one of his trips. I think what Paula is talking about is the relationship between the producer and the distributor once the film is completed and what you think that should be and what advice you had. We make a film for 3 million or 5 million. In fact I would like to say Sandy [Lieberson]. I suppose in setting up movies my relationship with distributors may be more important than the marketing side of it. and that knowledge. it’s probably the most pleasurable part of the film. taught me that game when I was a film editor. in the world of cinema. Q: Hi Jeremy. especially after it’s been completed. you know. look what’s happened to this. JT: It’s very important to have the relationships with distributors around the world and if you’ve got a good sales company that has a good marketing department that’s great. not only because I enjoy the culture of cinema. which is not complicated. who we mentioned before. like in life. don’t bother. but we don’t spend 5 million marketing it.project to the US. And I continue today to cultivate the festivals. like a seed. as Manchester United.
And people have to practice and cut their teeth in some way. As an independent producer from where I’m standing. by the time they’ve given you the money they want to get their money back. I want to ask you. But the numbers… no I’m okay with the numbers because practice makes perfect. he sent them out and I bought the script on Monday morning. And. the poster that you’ve made and you get to control them yourself. then you can influence the marketing in some way. Maybe make it right or wrong. how do you identify new people to work with? JT: Sexy Beast. which is always very frustrating. and then normally the local distributor changes your marketing anyway in each territory… even the title. in theory. and you’ve done it very recently with people like the director of Franklyn. what is your approach. And the week before. do you think we produce too many films in Europe? JT: Well. for example: the script came in on a Friday night to me and six other producers from the agent Steve Kenis.Because. the lady is asking. I’d seen all his Guinness commercials and 12 . saying. I’m really pragmatic about where I put my energies and the distribution side is very important. And so I suppose I’ve been focusing – and I’m self critical of this by the way – on the next projects. AW: Another question. you deliver them the trailer that you’ve made. And I wondered. there are too many of them. relationships are very important. Jonathan Glazer. but there are not enough good films. I’ve been spending time going around the world collecting the Principal territories. I suppose. in my theory. yes. And there are very few people who make a first film that is a masterly film. of course. so the bad films. about practicing. there are a lot of great movies made in Europe and I suppose there are some bad movies made and I suppose you wish they weren’t made. AW: In the context of Europe. AW: And in terms of… you said. because those are territories that can earn money eventually. having sold a film in the US now. you have invested time in a sense in new and emerging talent as well. “This guy Glazer is brilliant”. I’m focusing very much on the marketing of that film because there is big potential there. Because somebody in my office had been pestering me. somebody? Yep… Q: (inaudible). you talked about you relationship with the established authors/directors but you’ve also. you create the marketing materials yourself so you live or die by what you create. and getting the marketing materials because. principally the European territories. if you are able or lucky enough to put that into your deal. two weeks before.
of course looking at Inception. I was a little disappointed with the commercial result of the film when it came out. Glazer’s work had been in front of my eyes as a commercial director. And went on to make my most unsuccessful film after that. And in the same way [David] Mackenzie and Young Adam. the book. it’s something you couldn’t believe today. it was an interesting challenge. And more obsessive than the person next to you… but everybody knows that. actually. Sexy Beast was an unbelievable script and I found it attractive and the idea that it was a first time filmmaker was also attractive. as I can be. Q: Jeremy. “This really is an incredible book”. after all in France the Camera d’Or is a very important prize. again an un-filmable book and I was very taken with Dave Mackenzie and his shorts. if you are going to be producer you have to be an obsessive person. was this Arthur Miller script with Karel Reisz attached. but it might be interesting to hear how you recovered from winning an Oscar. And again every few years I’d like to try to make a film with a firsttime filmmaker. one cheque from Orion. because I went to LA a couple of weeks later and I got fifty per cent of the budget from the US. and you’ve been very modest. producers who have had a considerable success find it very hard to recover. I’m very pleased that I did it. When I saw Inception and I saw what we were trying to do for a twenty-four. And that film [Everybody Wins] turned into a very unsuccessful movie at the box office. I was totally seduced. And of course a director. I’m very into beat writers and [Alexander] Trocchi was certainly in that area and I thought. so it was a combination of things that happened. And it was irresistible. And often the first film of a film director is a very important movie. ten million dollars. US rights for twenty years… or fifteen years.I thought. actually! The Academy Award went back with my wife and I went to Jamaica where I spent two or three weeks. fully recovered. Then I came back to London and I recovered. by the possibility of working with Arthur Miller. on my desk and sent from the very smart and astute Sam Cohn knowing what sort of person I am. pure chance. you’ve been involved in a lot of co-productions and it would be interesting to hear about your experiences of what you’ve seen and how you think they’ll be going forwards? 13 . Q: Jeremy. luckily to others. twenty-fifth of the cost of Inception. I can’t claim expertise. “This guy is really brilliant”. how did you recover? JT: I recovered in Jamaica. The script included him in the package. So it just happened naturally and frankly I was trying to change a bit in being less classical in film choices. A movie producer has to have that element. I can just claim that I can push a lot and never stop pushing. and having a hit with The Last Emperor. And so when I got back to London. and luckily the actors were very taken with David Mackenzie and the book as well. You know. In fact it was a very interesting film and might need reappraising. boom. but I’m mainly talking about the producer here. And Franklyn: I found Gerald McMorrow very talented and I liked that subject.
before we go to that question over there. you know? The Euro-pudding idea. A Dangerous Method. I’m being sarcastic… 14 . going forward. they’ve never been in the trenches. you mentioned Eurimages obviously the UK withdrew from Eurimages many years ago. you’ve been involved in a lot of them… JT: Well. that’s the way films are made. It had to be financed as a co-production between Germany and Canada and it is only a fool who wouldn’t see that and. the Cronenberg film we’ve just finished. So they are a little bit counter-productive but they are an essential for me for making films. would have been impossible to finance in the market. they’ve been and watched it on the screen. And if anything can happen to get some expertise into that. you mentioned Eurimages. And that’s what I was saying about the people who design from the government standpoint. it would be massively brilliant. When they first started co-productions they always talked about “Euro-pudding”. AW: Can I ask you. but in reality I can’t see them allowing a cinema brain in. So I’m hopeful that we can get. always. For example. but they’ve got no idea and therefore when stopping co-production happened. but you’re stopping co-productions? Who did that? I’m hopeful that whatever happens for us it’s going to be good. which I think there were some examples of. and then I’m trying to make another movie now where we have a four territory co-production. however it’s sort of refined now. And of course behind me and with me. Their specialty is to consult with people who know very little about the subject. for the last twenty years. to spread it around to many people and stimulate films here. and… JT: Intelligent! Sorry. with the small amount of resources. my colleagues. it’s a lockout. I was completely confused. when I work with David Cronenberg. as I’ve said before. especially if I can persuade him to come to Europe. there’s nothing better than a German-Canadian co-production. and Eurimages.AW: Co-productions. they have never been into battle. And I hope the rules in the UK can make it possible. who are really expert on that. co-productions. but it’s a reality. I mean need I say more? It’s obvious. You can’t do what you want in the film. and everything you can possibly squeeze out of the system to make that film. But it brings the natural stresses on a movie… I find them very difficult. they are really working hard because that’s the way we raise the money now. of course. I’ve never managed. because one of the other incredible things that the government did is to make it very difficult for us to make a co-production with the UK. You are educating all these people. they’re the essential and difficult phase of making movies in 2010. it’s not because I am feeling hurt by it. because they are always telling you are not the only producer on the movie. impossible. to be consulted by those who are declaring on our business. somebody who really understands how to make the money go somewhere.
” So… AW: So. I can’t see any money from that. you make a co-production with another territory. you know. because half the world thinks what you make should be free anyway. And also they said. it’s very small at the minute. and then we’ll… yep. It’s hard to make your money out of that market. that costs me a hundred pounds. AW: There’s a question over here. in Britain? Or are we islanders? Are we like Japan? I don’t understand. So. “yes”.” So we are in that argument right now. But you have to do it in an incredibly complicated way. the business has suffered badly and it’s still suffering. any advance. That’s the thing: Are we European filmmakers. “Right. because they took us out of Eurimages. in fact I’m seeing now it’s starting to generate a little bit of money. we’ll just cancel it. we can’t make coproduction anymore. but unfortunately it doesn’t generate any money to make a movie. you think we should be back in? JT: Of course we should. how important is it for a film producer now to look for ways to distribute online rather than traditional distribution? AW: Gentleman was asking about the differences between online and traditional distribution… JT: We have to focus on the online in the future. I can’t give it to you for nothing. you’ve spent so much on the fees of the people who’ve helped you do that and it is vital for us to re-enter Eurimages from my point of view. Q: On the distribution side of things. Because we need Eurimages and of course this other film I’m doing. And that is a very sophisticated and also controversial crime. but I’m hoping that would generate. But I think piracy is still absolutely rife and films that we haven’t even released are already ready to be ripped off out in the cyberspace. Probably all the films that we’ve been involved with are available for free. then you get Eurimages. because that is the future. We will create an atmosphere where it’s impossible to make co-production. which is really helping the advisors profession rather than the film profession because by the time you’ve put that together.AW: Would you advocate in terms of that allocation of resources in the future that part of those resources should be invested into re-engineering membership into Eurimages? JT: Well we are very confused in Britain. And there’s live acts and “live” and is cinema a 15 . as far as the government is concerned we are not. Somebody’s brain decided that is impossible. Not to say we will stop the abuse of it. I mean: are we European or… I don’t understand. well I found it difficult. “Hey. But I say.
And you have to find money with venture capital now. or something becomes more pertinent or the director becomes available. AW: In terms of those funds. for many years. about the Kon-Tiki expedition. you have to move on to something else and not get stuck. you try to make your films important and as special as possible and then you sell it in the market. Going back to my festival idea. which I hope to be making imminently. I tried to set up a big fund and I just haven’t managed to succeed. I’ve tried to do it and I failed. you’ve got to understand when you’ve got a good subject or not. I have to take it. And I think that is the best advice I can give. And then something breaks on one of them. I’m always overflowing. But I try. then I will find a way to make it. so sometimes I’m totally full up and an incredible thing comes past and I have to do it. where the resources are from. “No I can’t do this”? JT: Yes. JT: No. I mean obviously we’ve seen. There seems to be more money from funds coming into film because they’ve created a compelling business plan for that. that’s why co-production is so important because we can’t really enter the industrialised area so we’re the rest of the area which is eight per cent of the marketplace. when I feel when I can’t get interest in my movie or my subject. enormously expensive. I’ve been re-optioning it. So raising money has changed. And some things I’ve found irresistible. or is that something….live act? It’s very hard to comprehend but I don’t think you should be looking to raise money for your movies in that right now. so it’s really post-selling now that you are doing. which seems to be more interested in films. We can’t decide dates. maybe in three or four years. what sort of a slate do you operate. and in fact we had Mark Gill in our first year talking about the fund that he’d set up at that point. Q: Just curious Jeremy. it’s only very special films that get a presale. I’ve stuck with Kon-Tiki because I believe it is an iconic story and everybody will want to see it. and ten per cent of the ticket sales. that if I find or can decide upon and put together a group of things in a film. is there some point where you have to draw the line and say. so I decided I’ll just focus on making the best ideas I can with the best filmmakers and then I’ll find a way to do them. I’ve had Kon-Tiki. But normally. has that been something that you were interested at one point to try and set up a big equity fund for your company. because clearly at some point given how much personally you are involved in the things you do. unfortunately. as an independent you have to do it by desire and the will of the 16 . It’s very expensive. and probably I have maybe six projects wandering around in development. in the bazaar. and of course the film business has changed out of all recognition because the idea of presale is very rare. And that’s still my overwhelming philosophy.
a very strong example of a filmmaker and material. AW: That seems a very good place to stop. Sandy [Lieberson]. If a certain filmmaker came in. then of course I have a bottom drawer of things that I own and then a lower drawer of things that I don’t own. The producers are always debased so anybody can be a producer. It’s very important for a producer to get a credit but unfortunately it’s an age where money talks. There are some strong ideas. and there are maybe a dozen really great subjects on there that are waiting for the right filmmaker to come through the door and do it. My second question is. it’s been interesting in the past decade where public service broadcaster channels like the BBC. personality or desire and then move that forward.directors. to have fluid ideas and multiple ideas. most of the people here are of the generation where they are used to paying for things. And if the right person comes through the door. But I do see film ideas in many things and I think that is very important for a producer. do you want to ask something before we stop? Q: You talked about a couple of things… and there are two questions that I would like to ask: one. “Go to another trade” because if you don’t have ideas you might as well stop. that they want to make. I see a story in a newspaper every day from which to make a movie and I’ve got into trouble like that. your package of persuasion. and there is a new generation out there that is used to getting things free on the Internet. So I need to have a few things in development. have insisted on sharing producer credit. Because I have to accept it. I was the only producer but there were fourteen producers because someone blew their nose. the UK Film Council. that’s great. I’ve got a shelf of books in my office that are books I haven’t made. And 17 . but now you’ve really got to give producer credits to anybody who comes close to your movie and it’s a bit demeaning but that’s what goes on so I accept that. stood next to an actor or whatever. and I’m sure everybody has that few ideas that they own. How do you cope with that situation? And what is it possible for distributors and producers to do to help eliminate that problem. And then sometimes I get asked by people “What shall I make?” At that point I say. sadly that’s a shame. AW: Piracy the first one… JT: Very succinctly: screen credit rather than bank credit. when I first started producing there was just a producer and then you had an executive producer. so there is a proliferation of piracy. And that’s a very important thing for a film producer. I think I had fourteen producers on my last film. like the Cronenberg moment and Naked Lunch. by taking on too many ideas. as executive producer… so two things there…. But I then try to improve my credit to: “Jeremy Thomas presents” to delineate myself from the other thirteen people to say that I produced the film. so you have to find a way without resources to put the thing together. or ideas that I haven’t made.
And then the internet. you can copy it. why do the executives in a film company have to take a producer credit. That Jeremy got that. you know? But it’s impossible for us to continue delivering films without any income. I’ve had conversations with telecoms bosses in Cannes this year and I was fascinated to hear about the new high speed. And to say I hope he carries on having those many. Or you download it. cut six of them on the computer and deliver them to everybody. Thank you very much. so you want to try and delineate yourself away from that. That’s an enormous amount of ripping off the film. which wasn’t even a commercially successful film. you buy a movie. I’m amazed as to how my films get pirated before I’ve even seen them myself. so of course I’m defending my role. And it’s the same with a movie. but I’m doing it so that when my competitor sees the film he has to see it. if that happens which of course I want to see. But I understand the people who’ve grown up with free internet and they want to get it for nothing. And that’s in America. so it’s a big problem. The same as the music business. and people think I’m an egotistical maniac for it. So it’s a terrible problem. And with Creation. END 18 . There is a leaky vessel in the technical houses and also due to the technology you can use to clone today. high quality and highly regulated paying internet. so I would like for it to be policed. And I hope. you know? And I’ve seen films of ours up on DVDrip before they were in cinemas. You are the entrepreneur of the project. It’s important for my ability to raise money. they manage to stop the piracy. In the days of 35mm prints you couldn’t clone so there was no piracy. well I think it’s going to change. So somehow there is a very leaky vessel anyway. his thoughts with us today. AW: At that point we are going to have to stop. multiple ideas and carries on making films for the next twenty years and beyond. because you buy a new album. again.I fight for that. we saw twenty thousand had been downloaded within a few days. Jeremy Thomas. And I would just like to thank Jeremy very much for sharing his time.
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