When Ian Flooks tells you that “film is the new rock ‘n’ roll,” he has some idea what he’s talking about.
This is the man who, from the late ’70s to the mid ’90s, was agent to ground-breaking bands from the Clash, Talking Heads, Police, U2, Pretenders and Eurythmics, all the way to REM and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The rise of manufactured pop acts such as the Spice Girls convinced Flooks to quit the music biz in 1998. He was drawn to indie film, which seemed to promise the kind of creative freedom that the increasingly corporate record industry had lost.
Three years ago, he launched the London-based production outfit Wasted Talent with producer Ian Benson. Their debut pic, Debbie Isitt‘s “Confetti,” has just been snapped up by Fox Searchlight for worldwide distribution, on the strength of 20 minutes of footage screened quietly at Cannes.
“Confetti” is a wholly improvised comedy, shot documentary style, about three couples who enter a bridal magazine competition for the “most original wedding of the year.” It features a cast of young Brit comic talent, including Martin Freeman and Jessica Stevenson, alongside “real” people playing themselves — a plastic surgeon, a tennis coach, the assistant to a magazine editor.
Flooks, who sold his music agency (also called Wasted Talent) to ICM in 1995, not only bankrolled the development of “Confetti” from his own pocket, but also co-financed the $3.6 million production, alongside BBC Films and Screen West Midlands.
“When I first moved into film, my friends in the business told me the two golden rules. You must have a really good script, and you must never put your own money into production. I broke those rules on day one,” he laughs.
“When Debbie explained why there was no script, it all made perfect sense, until I was trying to get it funded and no one would back it. So we had to co-fund it. I don’t think this film could have been made without Wasted Talent.”
The upside, of course, is that having sold the movie to Fox Searchlight, the company should see a tidy return on its investment.
“My criterion as a music agent was only, do I like this band?” he says. “My criterion as a film producer is only, would I want to see this movie? The Wasted Talent team in the early ’80s had great taste, and the sort of bands we signed attracted other like-minded artists who saw the way we developed their careers.
“In film, I want to work with great talent like Debbie, and for them to feel they are being matured, and that the development process is really empathetic.”
Next up for Wasted Talent will be “The Mistress,” written and directed by Brian Skeet, with whom Benson previously made “The Misadventures of Margaret” and “The Weekend.” Slated to shoot later this year, it will star Kelsey Grammer and Romola Garai in the comic story of a middle-aged man who has an affair with his daughter’s married best friend.
Flooks also runs his own yoga retreat company, combining yoga with hikes in the Tuscan hills (he personally guides the hikes). He dabbled briefly in film distribution (“a sobering experience and a costly learning curve,” he says) before deciding he would have “more fun and fewer sleepless nights” as a producer.
So far, at least, it’s paying off. “What’s surprised me is that film in London feels much smaller than the music business, and as a result it feels much freer, certainly in the creative sense,” he says.