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Meet The New Kings of Hollywood

When your movie defies the odds and sweeps the major categories at both the Oscars and the British Academy Awards (as in Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay), there is no question that as a producer you see your stock rise. For the trio of producers of THE KING'S SPEECH, a decidedly indie film with a budget of less than $15 million, the gates to Hollywood are now open, and they are stepping through.

Iain Canning is a 31-year-old Londoner who has mainly made low budget indie films in his native England. Emile Sherman is an Aussie who is also in his mid 30s. Gareth Unwin, another Londoner, has been kicking around the past few years working as an assistant director on small movie and British television shows. In other words, these are not the big money boys.

Their 5 year journey of mounting THE KING'S SPEECH is not unlike many an indie story. The odds were distinctly against them in attempting to do a period piece amidst a general economic collapse and, more specifically, a severe contraction of the British film scene brought on by draconian cuts to the arts and culture budgets by the new conservative government. Sherman and Canning first teamed up to create See Saw Films, a veiled reference to their ups and downs in the film business up to that time. Their first film in 2006 was CANDY, a story about poetry, love and heroin, starring Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush. The film made absolutely no noise, taking in less than $50,000 at the US box office.

In 2008, they were introduced to Mr. Unwin, who was trying to make a film of a still unproduced stage play by David Seidler about the stuttering problems of King George. The trio then decided to try and mount this as a film and sent off an early draft of the script to Geoffrey Rush. Rush agreed to be in the film and then the slow process of raising the financing and completing the casting took a long time. The film's director Tom Hooper, who won the Best Director prize, became intrigued after his mother happened to sit in on a table reading of the script. 

Raising money from a myriad of private and governmental sources in both the UK and Australia, shooting began in November 2009, on a budget that had shrunk from $30 million by half. Distributor Fox Searchlight showed initial interest but would not pay a substantial advance. Discussions eventually included Harvey Weinstein, the fiery Oscar promoter and distributor, whose The Weinstein Company picked up distributio rights in the US and elsewhere. The filmmakers then proceeded to sell individual territory rights along with a trailer of the film that showcased the top notch acting of the cast and the lush work done on a slim budget. 

The rest, as they say, is history....and now the trio of producers are the filmmakers du jour for whatever they next want to produce. Oh, the dream lives on.....

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor



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