Fine Line finds Hat Trick in ‘Dictionary’

Grabs worldwide rights to $10-12 mil Brit pic

In the first major production deal of the new regime at Fine Line Features, the company has picked up worldwide rights to the British project “The Sleeping Dictionary” from London-based Hat Trick Films.

The pic will be the first feature from award-winning writer/director Guy Jenkin, and will also mark the theatrical debut of Hat Trick, the U.K.’s premier TV comedy boutique. The likely budget is $10 million to $12 million.

Fine Line, which has recently been reorganized under new president Mark Ordesky, bought the script before it had been circulated anywhere else, signaling a renewed aggression in the company’s pursuit of production projects.

“The Sleeping Dictionary” is a sexy and comic love story, set in the 1920s, about an idealistic young British colonial officer who arrives in a remote jungle outpost to find himself assigned a local beauty to sleep with him and teach him the language. When he breaches protocol by falling in love with her, both the local tribe and the colonial regime are flung into turmoil.

The film will be produced by Hat Trick founders Denise O’Donoghue and Jimmy Mulville, with Ileen Maisel, a London-based consultant for both Fine Line and Hat Trick, acting as exec producer.

Fine Line hopes to ready the script for production within the next year, and will distribute the film in foreign territories under the new Fine Line Intl. banner.

“We were very aggressive about this material and have purposefully put ourselves in a fast-track situation,” Ordesky says. “We have been following this script for some time and look forward to getting the picture cast and off the ground.”

Guy Jenkin co-created the satiric Hat Trick sitcom “Drop the Dead Donkey,” and has since written and directed several topical telepics for the company, such as “Crossing the Floor” and “Lord of Misrule,” garnering numerous U.K. and international awards.

Over the past 12 years Hat Trick has established itself as the leading producer of high-end comedy on British TV, spanning sitcoms, satirical game shows and dramas. Its current output includes the top-rated shows on both BBC 2 and Channel 4 — “Have I Got News For You” and “Father Ted,” respectively. After winning the indie production sector’s award for innovation three years in a row, Hat Trick was barred from the running and the award was renamed after the company. The company recently launched a U.S. TV arm under a development deal with ABC.

Hat Trick Films, a partnership with video company VCI, was set up four years ago to develop movie scripts. It now has a slate of projects ready for financing, including “Thirteen Against the Bank,” “Red Angel,” “When Nietzsche Wept” and “Newton’s Law.”

“We have been as cautious and thorough about developing our films as we are with our TV shows, and because of that we now feel we have a strong group of projects to move into production,” commented O’Donoghue.

Emma Clarke, Fine Line’s London-based VP of production and acquisitions, brought in “Sleeping Dictionary” and will oversee the production on Fine Line’s behalf, along with Maisel and Fine Line Intl.’s exec VP Camela Gallano.

The deal was negotiated for Fine Line by Sara Frith, senior VP of business affairs, and for Hat Trick by commercial director Hilary Strong, Steven Burkow of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Tom Strickler of Endeavor.