Kudos makes move into movies

Brit company ahead of schedule

For the past seven years, Kudos has been arguably Blighty’s most innovative producer of popular TV drama, breaking the soapy Brit mold with fast-paced, high-concept action series such as “Spooks” (broadcast Stateside as “M.I.5”), “Hustle” and “Life on Mars.”

Now, with three movies shooting simultaneously for U.S. studios, the company is bringing the same energy, and much of the same talent, into the film biz.

Bharat Nalluri‘s English period comedy “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and David Cronenberg‘s London-set thriller “Eastern Promises,” both for Focus Features, and the Disney flamingo doc “Dreamscape,” have put Kudos well ahead of the schedule that topper Stephen Garrett set when he invited former FilmFour exec Paul Webster aboard to launch a film arm three years ago.

This move into movies was a natural step for a company which made its TV breakthrough by importing cinematic production values and U.S.-style narrative dynamics into British settings.

That’s why its TV hits have exported successfully to States, and it’s no surprise that Kudos is now working on turning them into feature films. The Hollywood studios and agencies have woken up to the creative talent pouring out of high-end Brit TV as their shows have got more exposure Stateside, and Kudos finds itself ideally positioned to bridge those worlds.

Garrett’s recent sale of his company to Elisabeth Murdoch‘s Shine has only strengthened his hand. “We couldn’t have a more film friendly and film savvy owner,” he says. “Lis shares our excitement and determination to make something of it.”

A bigscreen version of “Hustle,” about a team of con artists, being developed by Tony Jordan, writer of the original show, for Fox 2000. Paula Weinstein is working on a movie for Warner based on Nalluri’s epic “Tsunami,” which Kudos produced for HBO and the BBC. The company is also about to embark on development of a movie script based on spy drama “Spooks.”

Meanwhile, David E. Kelley is prepping a U.S. TV remake of time-travelling cop show “Life on Mars” for ABC. Once that’s done, Kudos hopes to work with Kelley to set up a feature version.

Kudos has certainly come a long way since the days, before Webster’s arrival, when Garrett produced the little-seen low-budget movies “Pure” and “Among Giants.”

Their posters still hang proudly above his desk, but Garrett admits he’s learnt the lesson that such gritty, small-scale fare has little currency in the theatrical marketplace.

Webster’s long experience at Film4, and before that with Miramax and Working Title, has helped to transform Kudos from a movie wannabe into the real deal. While revving up the company’s own slate, he even found time outside Kudos to produce Joe Wright‘s upcoming “Atonement” for Working Title, having previously piloted Wright’s debut “Pride and Prejudice.”

That pedigree explains why Focus turned to Webster when it needed a producer for “Eastern Promises.” Focus had already been working with Garrett for several years to develop “Miss Pettigrew,” which finally got greenlit with Frances McDormand starring, after Simon Beaufoy (who wrote “Among Giants” but more famously “The Full Monty”) took a pass at the script, and Nalluri, the original helmer of “Spooks,” “Hustle” and “Life on Mars” was attached to direct.

“Dreamscape” took  yet another route to fruition. The co-directors Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward approached Webster, who defied Garrett’s self-confessed skepticism to set it up with Disney.

Although Kudos is now playing in the studio league, Garrett points out that making movies for a fee isn’t as “grown-up” a business model as producing exportable TV dramas, where Kudos is able to retain ownership of its foreign rights.

Nonetheless, he sees a significant creative rationale for straddling the two spheres.

“What’s hard to quantify is the value film brings us in terms of our relationship to talent and to agents. You can’t really put a price on it,” Garrett argues. “With a lot of the writers, directors and actors we work with, it’s brilliant to be able to work on something in either world.”

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