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1) How did you first get into the film industry?
I was lucky enough to be a runner for John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin who were very important independent film makers in the 70/80s in the UK with their series of Agatha Christie films.
2) Did you always want to be a producer? Yes What drew you to it?
Seeing the tea party on the ceiling in Mary Poppins.
3) What were the main obstacles you faced when getting your first feature off the ground?
Financing! However, Clive Barker and I were quite prepared to do everything we could to get it over the line.
4) What do you look for in a screenplay?
1+1 = 3.
5) Are there any common mistakes writers make over and over?
Yes, poor spelling and grammar. May sound inconsequential but it really pulls the reader up and in cinematic terms breaks a fourth wall, if you can apply that expression to a script. Second, UK writers (ok a generalisation) enter early and leave late. Come in late and leave early. Thirdly, make sure every scene has a point to it. This could be in regards to their script and/or in meetings? Please listen to notes. A good producer will know his market/genre and be objective.
6) Should a writer fight his/her corner if the director or producer makes changes to their script that they might not agree with? Or do they need to step back and relinquish control at that point?
I think the point should be made but filmmaking is a chain of people giving up their babies: the writer to the producer, the producer to the director and the director to the actors. Being too precious about the otiose and nugatory is not constructive.
7) Do you have any advice for writers trying to break through into the industry?
Write about a world you know, and if you don’t, make sure you do.
8) Once you’re interested in buying the rights to a script, how it does it work for the writer from there?
A deal is done with the agent. If the writer doesn’t have one, I’ll help them get one. This deal will accommodate further drafts and other terms to make sure the chain of title is clear.
9) Is there standard or approx rate a writer would get for optioning their script? What about if it was sold to a production company? Is it a flat fee or percentage of the films budget?
There is no official rate. Stephen King options all his books for $1. A writer should expect 2-3% of the budget as a final fee but this will vary according to experience, track record, etc etc.
10) How do you usually work with the writer when you’re developing their script?
I personally like to work very closely and see scenes and pages as they develop. My greatest fear is that the writer goes off for a couple of months and then delivers something completely different.
11) How does this change once the film goes into production?
A script will be influenced by actors and locations, as well as production schedules overrunning. You would be amazed by the amount of times when confronted with a series of unshot scenes, you realise that you don’t need them and they would probably end up on the cutting room floor, (a quaint expression nowadays).
12) If there was a piece of advice you could give your younger self when starting out, what would it be?
Understand finance and distribution, and don’t underestimate the importance of development. Too many British films are made from scripts that are not fully developed.
13) How did you first become involved with producing Hellraiser?
I was introduced to Clive by a very good mutual friend. He said to me ‘I want to make a horror film’ and I said ‘OK. Three people in a house, something scary and we’ll make it’. We then came up with various themes, ideas and images. Clive wrote it as a short story (Hellbound Heart) and we then put a screenplay together.
14) Do you have a film you’ve produced that stands out as being your most memorable, or what you’re most proud of?
Every film is an achievement for everyone involved. Putting a film together is like pushing an elephant up the stairs with chopsticks. Some work out better than you expect; some not so well. The film that was the most memorable, and during which I learnt more about the importance of image and word, was as David Lean’s assistant director on Passage to India.
14) Is there a writer or director you would love to work with in the future?
There is so much new talent coming through with a new invigorating approach to film making that to identify anyone would be difficult, but as we deal in fantasy, I would say Billy Wilder.