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Where do you go after your gritty low-budget debut breaks all kinds of British box office records and makes you the hottest screenwriter in the country? For Simon Beaufoy, scripter of “The Full Monty,” the answer has been to run as far away from the multiplex as humanly possible.

Having gone hardcore arthouse with his 1999 followup “The Darkest Light,” which he co-directed with Billie Eltringham, he is now going one step further by premiering his latest experimental movie, “This Is Not a Love Song,” on the Internet.

The $500,000 digital thriller, about two ex-cons on the run from vigilantes across desolate moorland, was written (and partly financed from his own pocket) by Beaufoy and shot by Eltringham in just 12 days.

Conceived from the start with a simultaneous Web and cinema release in mind, it will be made available for streaming or downloading Sept. 5, bowing on the same day in four key arthouses. The U.K. Film Council co-financed the movie and is paying the $65,000 release costs.

Far from damaging the pic’s theatrical prospects, the Film Council hopes the Web launch will attract more media attention to the movie than it would otherwise achieve.

“Most of this is an experiment in how to make it work, technologically and legally, and to see what kind of response we get when we do it,” says Paul Trijbits, head of the Film Council’s New Cinema Fund. “For small films that may not get a theatrical release, or may just get on two screens for two weeks, this could make the opportunity much broader for people to see them.”

The movie actually was made two years ago, but it has taken this long for Web technology to catch up and make the experiment possible. One big issue was making sure the film could be only accessed in the U.K., so as not to infringe upon the rights of distribs in other countries. Web users will be charged $3-$5 for the movie, enough to cover the delivery costs but with no profit margin.

Meanwhile, the film has screened at various fests, winning critical plaudits for its exploration of the creative possibilities of digital filmmaking. “This is not a Webcam movie. It’s not all shot in close-up, it’s got sweeping landscapes, it’s truly cinematic,” Trijbits says. “They conceived this film in a way that suited itself to embracing the digital production technology. Most people just think of shooting digitally because they haven’t raised enough money.”

“Escape” to Tunisia

Tunisian movie mogul Tarak Ben Ammar, friend of Silvio Berlusconi and adviser to Rupert Murdoch, has come aboard as co-producer of Russell Mulcahy‘s “Escape.” The $23 million action-adventure, effectively a sequel to Alan Parker‘s “Midnight Express,” will shoot at Ben Ammar’s recently opened Empire Film City studio complex in Tunisia. His Paris-based company Quinta Communications also is taking French, Spanish and Italian rights. Miramax Films has North American rights, and IAC Films is handling international sales.

“Escape” is based on the book “The Return” by Billy Hayes, which recounts his attempts to evade capture after he broke out of his hellish Turkish jail, and his decision to break back into the prison to rescue a friend. Production outfit Davis/Panzer has been developing the project for several years, but the financing pieces now seem to be in place, subject to casting.

Ben Ammar is certainly a powerful ally. He reportedly played an important diplomatic role behind the scenes in patching up Berlusconi’s rift with the Arab world after the Italian leader suggested Christianity was inherently superior to Islam. After that, putting together a movie must seems like child’s play.