Channing-Williams’ initial challenge as the producer of “The Constant Gardener” was getting the American studios out of his way.
“The whole thing started with my reading an advanced copy of John le Carre’s book and being absolutely determined that I should make the film. I wrote to le Carre’s agent in New York and said that I felt a British independent producer should do it and not an American studio because I felt that American studios pretty much had mucked up everything that le Carre had written for the past 25 years,” says Channing-Williams.
“I made a tiny, tiny offer in comparison to what the studios would have offered, but le Carre still agreed to meet me … We got along very well, and he let me have the rights.”
After the film’s original director, Mike Newell, dropped out to do “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” Channing-Williams got “lucky” and signed on Fernando Meirelles.
“Fernando liked the script but wanted to do a lot with it and make Africa another character in the script, which I think it probably wasn’t until he came in.”
However, shooting in Africa introduced yet another predicament for the producer.
“Filming in Kenya was difficult, because the investors — and not just (distrib) Focus Features but the U.K. Film Council and the other investors — were not keen for us to shoot there; there was a travel advisory out from the United States government about traveling to Kenya,” says Channing-Williams. “They agreed that we should go to Kenya to see where the book locations were, and then go down to South Africa to try and find locations. But literally within 24 hours of our being in Kenya, Fernando and I decided that the only place to film was Kenya, and somehow we had to make it work.”
After meeting with four Kenyan ministers and getting letters of safe conduct, Channing-Williams persuaded the completion bond companies, the insurers and the financiers to let the production shoot in the country.
Although all problems were not solved once filming began, Channing-Williams had overcome one of his biggest hurdles as a producer: pre-production.