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New Line has ‘Rhythm’

New Line Cinema is hoping that Mark Burnell‘s novel “The Rhythm Section” will be the start of a new female thriller franchise for the studio.

NL has pacted with Brit author Burnell to adapt his own book, which is the first in a planned series of six novels about the femme assassin Stephanie Patrick.

The fourth installment, “The Third Woman,” is due for publication this fall.

“The Rhythm Section” begins with the heroine working as a Soho prostitute, having fallen into drugs and drink after the death of her family in an aircrash.

When she discovers that the crash was no accident, but an act of terrorism, she is jolted out of her downward spiral and recruited by a shadowy branch of the intelligence services to track down the killers. But her quest for revenge also becomes a way to rediscover her own humanity.

New Line exec VP Mark Ordesky, who is shepherding the project with senior vp of European production Ileen Maisel, describes “Rhythm Section” as “female ‘Bourne Identity.”

“What’s exciting is not just launching this franchise, but also the talent discovery of Mark Burnell,” Ordesky says. “We really feel he’s someone who’s doing to develop into something quite extraordinary.”

Winterbottom tries TV

Ever since the U.K. broadcasters agreed generous new terms for indie TV producers, some British filmmakers have been wondering why they continue to put themselves through agonies to get movies financed, when they could make telepics more easily and with much greater upside.

That’s exactly why director Michael Winterbottom and his producing partner Andrew Eaton elected to make “The Road to Guantanamo” for broadcast on Channel 4, despite originally conceiving it as a movie project.

It’s Winterbottom’s first TV work for nine years. In that time he has shot 11 features, all but one with Eaton, but even this indefatigable duo have grown weary of flinging themselves over the financial precipice every time they make a film.

“The terms of trade (for TV) are so spectacularly better than any film deal you can get in the U.K., it is embarrassing,” Eaton testifies.

“The Road to Guantanamo,” which has just finished its first phase of shooting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a drama-doc about the Tipton Three — a trio of British Muslims captured in Afghanistan who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.

Under the TV terms of trade, C4 is putting up the entire budget of around $1.8 million, in return for a five-year broadcast license, after which the U.K. rights revert to Eaton and Winterbottom’s Revolution Films. Revolution also retains all foreign rights, and plans to seek theatrical release all over the world.

“We’ll have to find a little bit of additional funding to create a theatrical version, and then we’ll sell it ourselves, instead of using a sales agent,” Eaton says. “Michael’s films usually get released by the same distributors, so we know them well.”

Had Revolution made “Guantanamo” as a theatrical movie for FilmFour (C4’s movie arm), the web would have invested just $800,000 for the U.K. TV rights, forcing the producers to trade away all their ownership, either to FilmFour to other financiers, in order to raise the rest of the budget.

Eaton also contrasts the ease of getting production cashflow from the C4 drama department with the “pain” of dealing with multiple film financiers.

“TV executives are properly managing the process and worrying about the quality of what is produced, instead film people trying to make it as hard as possible,” says Eaton, who is also vice-chairman of the U.K. Film Council. “It’s a brilliant example of how much we in the film industry have completely lost the plot.”

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