‘Birthday’ wishes

HAL, Film Four team for Butterworth pic

LONDON — HAL Films, the London-based company backed by Miramax, is joining Film Four to co-produce “Birthday Girl,” the second pic from British writer/director Jez Butterworth.

The $5 million film is the story of a young bank clerk living in the London suburbs who sends off for a Russian mail-order bride and gets more than he bargained for. The film is currently casting and will shoot in September.

Family affair

Butterworth wrote the screenplay with his brother Tom, who also collaborated with him on the script of his debut movie, “Mojo.” Like “Mojo,” the film is being produced by Eric Abrahams at Portobello Pictures, with a third brother, Steve Butterworth, to serve as co-producer.

Miramax will distribute the film in North America and internationally, with Film Four taking U.K. rights.

The project was originally in development at Film Four under David Aukin, so when he moved on with Colin Leventhal and Trea Hoving to launch HAL in partnership with Miramax, HAL became the obvious first port of call for co-production finance. Miramax also had first-look rights to the project, after having released Portobello’s “Kolya.”

Meanwhile, Abrahams is out to financing with “Kolya” director Jan Sverak’s first English-language project, “Dark Blue Road,” a $15 million drama about two Czech pilots in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, and the woman they both love.

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