Rookie-of-the-year possibilities overflowing
The Carl Foreman Award for achievement by a British director, writer or producer for first film tends to get overlooked amid the greater drama of BAFTA night. Chosen by a jury rather than the membership, awarded for an individual contribution rather than the overall film, it has a different narrative from the other prizes.
Yet, it’s the Foreman that reveals the most about the present and future of British cinema.
This year has delivered another bumper crop of debut work, belying claims by some local pundits that this has been a thin year for British filmmaking. Such diverse first features such as “Moon,” “In the Loop,” “Nowhere Boy” and “Shifty” displayed a high degree of originality, energy and invention, not just in their creative content but also in their financing.
Leading this year’s pack are Duncan Jones, Stuart Fenegan and Nathan Parker, the director, producer and co-writer of cult sci-fi hit “Moon.” On a budget of $5 million, raised largely from private investors, they created an utterly convincing moonbase, along with an intriguing drama of an astronaut struggling with a fractured identity.
“In the Loop,” a feature spinoff from the BBC political satire “The Thick of It,” also offers several Foreman contenders. The jury will have trouble distinguishing between the multiple writers, so Armando Iannucci’s work as director and creative supremo looks the most likely to get nominated. But brilliant though it is, perception by some that the film is essentially a feature-length episode of an already established TV show could count against it.
Sam Taylor-Wood has the right pedigree. Like 2009 Foreman laureate Steve McQueen, Taylor-Wood is an artist-turned-director; she also was BAFTA-nommed last year for her debut short. Her surprisingly conventional but skillful Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” was scripted by 2008 Foreman winner Matt Greenhalgh.
Rock biopics seem this year’s rage. “Telstar,” about pop producer Joe Meek — a fizzy re-creation of early ’60s swinging London that gradually turns in a psychodrama — is the directing bow of actor Nick Moran. It was fully financed by its first-time producer, Simon Jordan, owner of the Crystal Palace soccer club.
Paul Viragh’s debut script for Ian Dury biopic “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” could also get him in the frame.
Best of this year’s microbudget bunch is Eran Creevy’s “Shifty,” funded by FilmLondon’s Microwave scheme. Edgy thriller about a sharp young Muslim drug dealer didn’t work at the box office, but it brought Creevy and his producers, Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken, to wider industry notice.
Paul King (director, “Bunny and the Bull”), Jordan Scott (writer-director, “Cracks”) and Daniel Barber (writer-director, “Harry Brown”) are also in play.
And as usual, there’s an eclectic bunch of docs to consider, including Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward’s “The Crimson Wing,” Jamie Jay Johnson’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit,” Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil!” and possibly Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s “Mugabe and the White African,” if it can secure a qualifying U.K. release.
J Blakeson’s twisty low-budget thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed” will miss the release window for this year’s awards, but otherwise would be a strong contender. It’s also unclear whether writer-director Peter Strickland will be considered for his self-financed Romanian-Hungarian movie, “Katalin Varga.” The Foreman rules have long been fuzzy on the issue of whether the film needs to be British so long as the talent is. Strickland may prove a test case.
Now in its 12th year, the Foreman has almost always gone to a director or writer-director. Greenhalgh is the only pure writer ever to win, for “Control.” Producer Nicola Usborne shared the honor with director Joel Hopkins for “Jump Tomorrow,” but no producer has ever won alone.