One of the seven development “powerhouses” set up last year by the U.K. Film Council has bitten the dust.Producer Alison Owen of Ruby Films has dismantled her partnership with the UKFC, distrib Momentum Pictures, BBC Films, financier Ingenious and Irish outfit Octagon Films. The group has dissolved just one year into what was supposed to be a three-year relationship. In its place, Owen has struck a much simpler first-look deal for film and TV projects with FilmFour/Channel 4. “It didn’t work in my particular instance, because it was incredibly difficult to get all the partners to agree,” explains Owen, whose credits include “Proof” and “Sylvia.” In the end, she managed to get the full backing of all the partners for just one project — the long-delayed “Tulip Fever,” which Peter Chelsom now is attached to direct. The UKFC awarded a total of £7.5 million ($13 million) over three years to seven production groups, each of which was required to bring matching finance from distribs, sales agents or other industry sources. The idea was to improve the chances of lottery-funded scripts actually getting made by embedding distribs earlier in the development process. Skeptics questioned the notion that this could be achieved by brokering artificial alliances. A year later, the jury is still out. With Ruby’s alliance with Momentum now defunct, and Tartan Films pulling out of Stephen Woolley and Liz Karlsen‘s Number 9 Films group even before it launched, only three of the surviving six partnerships have the support of U.K. distribs. All seven were required to get at least one film into production within their first year. Most, predictably, have failed to do so. The partnership between Recorded Picture Co. and Little Bird has actually managed two — “Fast Food Nation” and “Bernard and Doris” (both American films) — while the Ealing/Icon group plugged a few pennies into “Fade to Black.” The rest — Number 9, Capitol, Pathe, Darlow Smithson and, of course, Ruby — have yet to greenlight their first movies. However, development is not an overnight process, and most of these are confident that one or more projects will move into production in 2006. Owen, meanwhile, has been making more progress with projects developed outside the UKFC partnership. After producing “Love and Other Disasters” last year for EuropaCorp, she’s about to start shooting Sarah Gavron‘s “‘Brick Lane”‘ for FilmFour. Other Ruby projects in development with FilmFour include an adaptation of Nigel Slater‘s foodie memoir “Toast,” written by Lee Hall; “Case Histories,” based on Kate Atkinson‘s detective novel, written and directed by Phyllis Nagy; and an adaptation of Zadie Smith‘s “On Beauty,” which Owen is producing with Scott Rudin. Owen and Rudin also are working together on Justin Chadwick‘s “‘The Other Boleyn Girl,”‘ backed by BBC Films, Sony and Focus. Woodward reups at UKFC After pulling off the double coup this year of a favorable new tax deal from the government and an expanded commitment from the BBC to support British movies, John Woodward looks set to serve at least another three years as chief exec of the U.K. Film Council. Woodward, who has led the org since its creation in 2000, has agreed on an improved new deal with the UKFC’s remuneration committee, which will be presented to the full board for approval March 28. Some board members, however, are surprised they weren’t consulted about whether Woodward should be offered a new term before negotiations with him began. UKFC chairman Stewart Till counters that the remuneration committee includes four board members; that the same rules were followed last time Woodward’s contract was renewed three years ago; and that the full board will have its chance to veto the deal, either in its details or its entirety, when it meets next week. Despite the disquiet, such a veto looks highly unlikely.
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