Thursday, 25 August 2011

Script Editor IV: film producer Richard Holmes interview...

Richard Holmes is that reassuring thing: a successful UK film producer who, on the evidence of our interview, is apparently an affable, centred human being. Such a disposition probably benefited the on-set atmosphere during production of the bloodcurdling EDEN LAKE (2008), his most recent success. His forthcoming film RESISTANCE (2011) is based on the celebrated novel by Owen Sheers and stars Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough. Turning to the past, his first feature SOFT TOP HARD SHOULDER (1993) starred a young Peter Capaldi and has attracted a cult following, whilst SHOOTING FISH (1997) and WAKING NED (1998) were popular at the UK and international box office. Other credits include SOLITAIRE FOR 2 (1995) and DEAD BABIES (2000). He speaks with entertaining frankness about the delights and agonies of being an independent UK film producer.

Below is an excerpt from the FULL Richard Holmes interview, which can be accessed for FREE at Industrial Scripts' Member's Area. Register for Industrial Scripts' Free Members Area to access this interview in full, and many others.

As a producer how much of a role do you have in looking after the actors and have you ever had to mediate a dispute between an actor and a director?

The only time I've had to mediate, and failed to mediate, an actor's problem was on SHOOTING FISH. Stuart Townsend who at that point was 23 and a very beautiful young man decided – I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this now – that in one of the costumes he looked fat. Of course, he couldn't look fat if he tried. It was a scene where he had to wear a big white bunny rabbit suit and he wouldn't come out of his caravan. He became very anxious that he was going to look ridiculous - which he had to, that was the whole point - and it wasn't going to be good for him. So the second assistant director tried to get him out of the caravan, and that didn't work, and then the first assistant turned up and finally I was called in to mediate - and I couldn't persuade him out of the caravan either. It was Stefan - whose now very friendly with Stuart, they get on very well - who went in and rather than going "Oh please, please get on set!" instead said "Oh yeah it does make you look really fat has anyone tried a belt on you?" and he grabbed a utility belt off a spark. We lost three and half minutes, it wasn't a big deal, and Stuart was absolutely fine. What do you learn from that? You need to pick your battles, you need to choose the right person to fight the battle and you need to acknowledge the fact that actors are necessarily anxious creatures.

One of the big discussions in the UK Independent film is the whole area of paying or not paying screenwriters. Where do you sit in that whole discussion?

When you’re starting as a producer and the screenwriter turns up and says "can I have another couple of weeks" you immediately think "of course, I don't know when I'm going to make this film" but you only realise how catastrophic a missed deadline is one or two or three years later. You see that those two weeks of delay killed the project. It's difficult to grasp that concept: I have now and say "no, you can have three days". All writers are whores; I know this because I've been a writer. You have fifteen projects because you need to get paid and you know producers are fickle - you've got to keep all the irons in the fire! But if you just say "no, you can't have the time" then the writer will get it done. Obviously when you're working with two screenwriters, as we did with Owen and Amit on RESISTANCE, it became even more complex because they both had other assignments and obligations. But I made it clear to them, to their agents and to the financiers that we were not going to get behind. And I'm very glad I did.

Above is an excerpt from the FULL Richard Holmes interview, which can be accessed for FREE at Industrial Scripts' Member's Area. Register for Industrial Scripts' Free Members Area to access this interview in full, and many others.

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