C4 takes a global approach

CANNES — Channel 4 is considering devoting more of its filmmaking efforts to projects from outside the U.K., in response to the boom in British production fueled by lottery cash.

C4 head of film David Aukin told Daily Variety that the availability of alternative financing sources for British producers meant that they would no longer be so reliant on C4’s support, giving him more freedom to range further afield.

Looking abroad

“I’m interested to see if we can be more involved with filmmaking abroad, especially if things get a bit silly in the U.K. in terms of greenlighting films before they are ready, and inflation hitting budgets because of a bidding frenzy for projects,” he said. “If that happens we will hold our position, we will not get involved.”

He pointed to C4’s investment in the French pic “Portrait Chinois” and the American pic “Safe” as examples of the route he is considering.

“As more money has become available, British filmmakers are obviously less dependent upon us,” he said. “What I fear is that the disciplines that we have established over the years will disappear with more money available, and that films will be made that aren’t ready.”

Aukin is confident that the arrival of BBC honcho Michael Jackson as the new chief exec of Channel 4, replacing Michael Grade, will not result in any cutback of C4’s film activities.

‘Gold standard’

Indeed Jackson went out of his way to praise “Film on Four” as the “gold standard” in a press briefing earlier this week.

“That couldn’t be a clearer endorsement,” Aukin said. But he predicted that the wider expansion of the British film industry, thanks to the investment of lottery cash into movies by the Arts Council, would result in changes at “Film on Four.”

” ‘Film on Four’ has to constantly redefine itself in relation to what else is happening,” he commented.

C4’s wider TV mandate is to offer an alternative to the mainstream, but Aukin observed, “For years ‘Film on Four’ had nothing to be an alternative to. … I’m not even sure how we will reposition ourselves now.” C4’s current production slate includes the romantic comedy “Martha — Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence,” starring Monica Potter, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes, and directed by Nick Hamm.

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