DIFF Daily 2010

‘The King’s Speech’ – much more than indie Brit film

Dec 14,2010 - 11:14 AM

Tom Hooper's ‘The King's Speech,’ which opened the Dubai International Film Festival this year, is not just your typical indie Brit pic. The film also offers a case study in how the indie film sector can harness opportunity in the global film biz and move quickly, even in times of economic hardship and without the help of a major Hollywood studio.
Those involved with the historical drama, top-lining Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, give much of the credit to Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, who run the Australian and UK production company See-Saw Films.
See-Saw put together the financing and produced the film by striking deals with key distribution partners, including a multi-territory pact with the Weinstein Co., which released the film in the US on November 26.
‘The King's Speech’ came together with lightning speed; See-Saw closed financing in October 2009, after having the script in hand for a year.
Hooper started principal photography in November 2009 and turned in a final cut of the movie at the end of August this year, in time for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
Behind the scenes, there were intense moments along the way. See-Saw faced a crucial decision when Fox Searchlight came knocking at its door earlier in 2009. The specialty division was keenly interested in ‘King's Speech,’ but there was a catch: Searchlight, owned by a studio with a sprawling international operation, wanted worldwide rights.
But that would have meant cutting out See-Saw's earliest partners on the project, led by Momentum Pictures in the UK. Australia's Transmission also took an early stake in the film. See-Saw has a first-look deal with Momentum, while Transmission is a sister company.
See-Saw decided to stick to its initial plan and go the indie route to retain control.
In summer 2009, the recently shuttered UK Film Council put up a chunk of financing. In early September, the Weinstein deal was officially announced, although it had been in the works well before that. In addition to the US, TWC picked up rights for Germany, France, Benelux, Latin America and Hong Kong, amongst other territories. Glen Basner's FilmNation came aboard to sell off remaining territories and launched the project a year ago at the American Film Market in Santa Monica.
Tim Smith and Paul Brett’s Prescience Film Finance also injected cash into the pic.
Transmission releases ‘King's Speech’ in Australia on Boxing Day (December 26). Momentum will distribute the pic in Blighty while its parent company, Alliance, will distribute pic in Canada.
The production budget for ‘King's Speech’ came in at $12 million.
Momentum topper Xavier Marchand said it wasn't difficult selling the project because of Hooper, a driving force, and screenwriter David Seidler. Seidler related profoundly to the film's subject, King George VI, since he had a debilitating stutter as a child and remembered empathising with the British monarch.
Star Colin Firth was on hand at the start of DIFF this year, when the event opened with the pic. Firth, who recently picked up the British Independent Film Award for his role in the pic, was also awarded Variety’s International Star of the Year award at the fest on Monday.

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