BBC Films is celebrating its 25th anniversary this evening. At the forefront of British independent filmmaking, BBC Films has developed and produced over 250 films during this period with a further 15 new titles released this year. The milestone comes after winning the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at this year’s British Academy Film Awards in February.
Christine Langan, Head of BBC Films, said: “We’re so proud to celebrate 25 years of flying the flag for British film. Since Anthony Minghella’s unique Truly Madly Deeply, BBC Films has played a vital role in finding and nurturing the British talent at the heart of so many successful films. BBC Films stands not just for great British talent, but amazing British stories. From Ricky Gervais’s David Brent film Life on the Road, a charming new adaptation of Swallows and Amazons starring Rafe Spall, James Marsh’s compelling exploration of the doomed sailor Donald Crowhurst starring Colin Firth, and the edgy urban drama of Pete Travis’s City of Tiny Lights – not to mention feature documentaries on Grace Jones and the amazing AP McCoy – we’re hugely excited about a current slate that reflects what a dynamic and vibrant place Britain is today. Britain has a wealth of incredible film-making talent and it’s never been more important for the BBC to support, promote and celebrate it.”
Tony Hall, BBC Director-General stated: “BBC Films represents everything I love about the BBC. What started as just a small part of our drama department 25 years ago has grown into a creative powerhouse recognised the world over. The money we put in goes a very long way – every £1 attracts around £5 more of investment to produce British films that otherwise wouldn’t be made. That’s a great achievement.
I’d like to thank the artists – the writers, actors, producers, directors, as well as all the talent behind the scenes, for everything they’ve done – and continue to do – with us.”
Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) will direct an adaptation of Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning novel The Sense of an Ending. The adaptation is the debut screenplay of award-winning playwright Nick Payne, whose play ‘Constellations’ has recently been on Broadway starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It tells the story of Tony Webster, whose comfortable world is rocked to its foundations by the emergence of an explosive letter from his careless youth. David Thompson will produce for Origin Pictures.
Rafe Spall is confirmed for Swallows and Amazons, a reinvention of Arthur Ransome’s timeless classic. Written by Andrea Gibb, the film will be directed by Philippa Lowthorpe and produced by Nick Barton.
BBC Films is excited to be working again with Armando Iannucci, and have just begun development on a new version of David Copperfield, to be adapted by Iannucci and fellow Dickens expert Simon Blackwell (In the Loop, Veep).
BBC Films is following unique jockey AP McCoy in the final year of his extraordinary career as he fights to become champion for an unbelievable 20th time and faces a future out of the saddle.
Two other new feature documentaries are confirmed today.
Director Sophie Fiennes reaches beyond Grace Jones’ iconic mask in this observational portrait. Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life is a multi-narrative journey through the private and public realms of the legendary singer and performer. Produced by Katie Holly, James Wilson, Emilie Blézat and Sophie Fiennes. BBC Films join the BFI Film Fund and the Irish Film Board as co-financers.
Ross MacGibbon is directing the feature documentary about the youngest-ever star of the Royal Ballet, Sergei Polunin. With choreography by David LaChapelle, Tiger Son charts the story of the young gifted Ukrainian boy who joined the Royal Ballet at 13 and became a principal at 19. In January 2012 he took the dramatic decision to walk away from his career. The film will be produced by Gaby Tana.
From Academy Award winner James Marsh, the Director of The Theory Of Everything and producers Blueprint Pictures comes the incredible true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, and his attempt to win the first single-handed round-the-world yacht race in 1968. Written by Scott Z. Burns, this is the tense and epic journey of Donald Crowhurst portrayed by Academy Award winner Colin Firth as he embarks on a solo voyage around the world leaving behind his family, and confronted with great struggles and isolation alone on the high seas.
BBC Films is committed to the voices of the future and has invested in two new projects, ‘Greenlight’ with the NFTS and ‘Screenplay First’ with BBC Writersroom.
‘Greenlight’ is a joint venture with the NFTS to fund one short film a year for three years directed and crewed by NFTS recent graduates. By giving the successful filmmakers access to a bigger budget, the aim is to accelerate the process from student filmmaking to full scale access to the industry.
‘Screenplay First’ is a screenwriting award to be curated by BBC Writersroom in collaboration with BBC Films. The award will be open to writers with previous credits in theatre, TV or radio but who have yet to have a feature film commissioned. In addition to a prize of £10,000, the winner will receive assistance with development from BBC Films.
BBC Films is also making available a selection of scripts from the last 25 years to the BBC Writersroom’s online script library. Titles will include An Education, Pride, My Week With Marilyn, Made in Dagenham and In the Loop, among many others.
This commitment to supporting new talent will stand alongside the existing investment for iFeatures, Film London Microwave and short films – including, most recently, Reggie Yates’ ‘Shelter’. These schemes have nurtured great success, with Film London Microwave’s Lilting, receiving a BAFTA nomination this year, and iFeatures’ Just Jim having its world premiere at SXSW.
BBC TWO will celebrate BBC Films’ 25th Anniversary with a week of BBC Films’ titles in May, which will include the premieres of Great Expectations and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Kim Shillinglaw, Controller, BBC TWO says: “I’m very proud that BBC TWO is the television home of BBC Films. I want BBC TWO to be the place where creatives can come to do their best, most authored work, as well as where new talent are given the space to grow and develop, and the role the channel plays in supporting independent film-making in the UK is therefore incredibly important to me.”
BBC Films also has a raft of projects currently in development and pre-production.
Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins, which tells the story of the world’s worst soprano who sold out Carnegie Hall, will be filming this year with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
Lone Scherfig will direct Their Finest Hour and a Half based on the novel by Lissa Evans and written by Gaby Chiappe. Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley will produce the hilarious and moving portrait of the topsy turvy world of wartime London.
City of Tiny Lights is a contemporary detective thriller based on the novel by Patrick Neate. Produced by Ado Yoshizaki, Charles Steel and Rebecca O’Brien, Pete Travis directs a script which Neate has adapted himself, with a cast which includes Riz Ahmed and Cush Jumbo.
BBC Films is also delighted to be welcoming Ricky Gervais back to the BBC to join forces on Life on the Road, the film about his seminal creation David Brent. 15 years on, Brent is now a travelling salesman engaged in a belated bid for rock stardom, with a documentary crew following his every move. Written and directed by Gervais, he will also produce alongside Charlie Hanson.
BBC Films will see 15 films released this year. From Carey Mulligan grappling with love in the 18th Century in Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding Crowd through to a modern-day take on dating with Simon Pegg and Lake Bell in Man Up, BBC Films’ slate always champions stories that can engage and enthrall a global audience. James Kent’s Testament of Youth, Saul Dibb’s Suite Française and Morgan Matthews’ X + Y are currently in cinemas with Michael Winterbottom’s The Face of an Angel joining them this week.
April will see Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds starring in Simon Curtis’ Woman in Gold, Alan Rickman directing Kate Winslet in A Little Chaos and Carol Morley following her celebrated documentary ‘Dreams of a Life’ with a dramatic feature, The Falling, starring Maxine Peake and Maisie Williams.
BBC Films’ releases for the summer include Rufus Norris’ critically acclaimed ‘London Road’ which has been adapted for the big screen following its sell out run at the National Theatre, Mr Holmes starring Ian McKellen following its success at the Berlin Film Festival, iFeatures project, The Goob, and the comedy, Bill, from celebrated the team behind ‘Horrible Histories’ and ‘Yonderland’. Later in the year will see the launch of Nicholas Hytner and Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith and the Nick Hornby adaptation of Colin Tóibín’s Brooklyn.