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UK-based production house Film & Music Entertainment

UK-based production house Film and Music Entertainment head towards completion of 2006 slate worth a total of $32 million, as well as 2007 as Border Post bows in Competition in San Sebastian. Downey and Taylor confirm shareholding in Shotgun Pictures.

London/San Sebastian:

Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) is in the last stages of post production on a 2006 slate of six pictures, and despite gloomy prospects for the UK independent sector, announce a robust line up for their 2007/2008 roster. The news comes as Border Post by Rajko Grlic, the first ever co-production between all the new states of the former Yugoslavia screens in competition in a high profile San Sebastian line up on Friday.

“It has been a very full, and fulfilling year for the company,” says managing director/producer Mike Downey, who founded the firm just over 5 years ago with partner Sam Taylor, “and we have managed to produce a mix of big budget epics, smaller European art house treasures moving across genre and budget with the aim of creating a mixed portfolio of films which add to our catalogue.”

F&ME’s catalogue already boasts 25 features made in the last five years and the highest profile in the 2006 line-up is a Euro 12 million epic from Juraj Jakubisko or ‘the Fellini of the East’ as he is commonly known. Bathory which recounts the life and times of the legendary ‘Countess of Blood’ who according to the Guinness book of records is the greatest murderess of all time Anna Friel, Vincent Regan and Hans Matheson star in what is the biggest Czech production of all time. The film will screen as an extended promo at the upcoming American Film Market.

After Working Title, F&ME is currently the second most prolific producer in the UK, and nearest to completion is UK/Spain/Italy partnership between Sintra, Mate Productions and F&ME on Spanish tyro director Miguel Alcantud’s psycho-thriller Anastezi. Shot in English, the film stars Derek Jacobi, and is set in a mysterious music academy for violin prodigies in Southern Italy, who are in jealous competition with each other to perform the Maestro Balzer’s (Jacobi) great new piece. Also on the slate from Spain is Guillermo Groizard’s Mirror Maze made in partnership with Rioja Audiovisual.

Also on the slate are A Quest for a Heart a Euro 5 million animation in partnership with Finland (Mrp Productions), Germany (Greenlight Media) and Russia (Producers Center Contact); Mystery of the Wolf a family film set in Lapland directed by Raimo O.Niemi in partnership with Kinoproduction and Filmlance. World sales for both these titles is being handled by Nordisk Film International Sales.

Finally F&ME’s first film to be made under the new rules is with regular Icelandic partner Julius Kemp’s Icelandic Film Company. Damsel’s and Dorks is a self-confessed geek movie directed by Gunnar B Gudmundsson and is currently in post in London.

“It’s very much business as usual for us,” says Downey in reference to the changing legislation of recent times in the UK, “and the new UK film tax legislation has made it much more difficult for us to partner with our European colleagues in a meaningful reciprocal way. The law is skewed in favour of big US productions coming to the UK – but we saw this coming 18 months ago and have cut our cloth accordingly. We have a vigorous and commercial set of films for 2007 and more bigger budget pictures planned for 2008.”

F&ME’s three big productions for 2007, are as expected internationally minded and first off is by first time British director Dominic Murphy. Murphy is best know for his award winning commercials for the Partizan stable, the company that spawned Michel Gondry. His debut film White Lightnin’ will prep in Jan 2007 for a March shoot and stars Ed Hogg as real life mountain dancer and cult figure Jesco White. The film is written by Vice Magazine founders Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti and Downey and Taylor produce. Sam Horley’s Lumina Films is handling world sales. (Note: A full announcement will be made on this film in the next 2 weeks).

Downey and Taylor have also taken over the reins of their $15 million partnership with Matthew Justice’s Lunar Films. Justice steps back into an exec producer role on Clifford (HOAX) Irving’s FAKE! to be shot next summer in Spain, Canada and Hungary. The film is to be directed by Michael Kalesniko, whose previous outing How to Kill Your Neighbour’s Dog starred Ken Branagh, Jared Harris and Robyn Wright Penn. A well travelled studio screenwriter as well as director, he recently penned Julia Robert vehicle Seven Year Switch. F&ME’s chairman and long time collaborator Stephen Daldry and La-based Stephanie Smith have also signed on as executive producers. Peter Miskolczi of Budapest-based Eurofilm Studios kft will co-produce and service the Hungarian shoot. Casting is currently underway in Los Angeles via Smith and Gail Stevens in London.

Also confirmed for early 2007 is F&ME’s first foray into feature length documentaries. Partnering with Emmy award winning documentarist Nick Stringer, Downey and Taylor will produce The Turtle’s Song in collaboration with Big Wave Productions. Dubbed a March of the Penguins for the undersea world, the film follows the 20-year odyssey of a loggerhead turtle follows the path of her ancestors on one of the most extraordinary journeys in the natural world. From a beach in Florida, she rides the Gulf Stream to the frozen north, swimming around the entire North Atlantic to Africa and then back to the beach where she was born.

“The feature documentary market is one that has grown in recent years,” says F&ME’s co-founder and partner Sam Taylor, “and the chances of a longer more profitable life in the ancillary markets are much improved. This is a new departure for us and the beginning of several projects planned with Big Wave, and our latest collaboration with MRP in Finland and Allegro in Austria.”

Downey and Taylor have also joined forces as shareholders in the Munich based low budget film fund Shotgun Pictures, along with Thomas Haeberle, Dan Maag, Peter Rommel and Torsten Poeck. The company to date has invested in Cannes Director’s Fortnight opener Princess, a collaboration with Zentropa; Karin Ainouz’ Suely in the Sky which is being sold by Celluloid Dreams and Adrift which Pathe have just released in the UK on 300 screens and which will be released as Open Water 2 in the US. Summit handle international sales. Downey and Taylor are actively seeking low budget films in the UK and US to fully or partly fund.

Other in-house projects currently in development include Thomas (Schindler’s List) Kennealy’s Victim of the Aurora, James Ellroy’s Killer on the Road, Jesus Christ Airlines a film set during the Biafra airlift and Rent Boy! a film with puppets written by Jane Bussman with puppets from The Wright Stuff.

On the 2007 co-production front announcements will be made later in the year with start dates for Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre by Julius Kemp, A Gathering of Foes by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Buick Rivera by Goran Rusinovic, and The Spot a surfer Rom Zom Com with Philp Schulz-Deyle’s Telenorm in Germany.

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