London– The winds are changing for the lads at U.K. indie outfit Vertigo Films. For the London-based producer-distrib that kick-started its way into the U.K. scene eight years ago with a raft of gritty, urban Brit pics targeted to male auds (think Danny Dyer fare like soccer hooligan pic “The Football Factory” and gangster pic “The Business”), this year the shingle is riding high off the success of its most commercial pic to date, “Streetdance 3D,” which has grossed $44.3 million and counting.
The $6.7 million family/teen pic, which is so far its biggest theatrical release, marked the shingle’s first foray into 3D and was Europe’s first digital 3D mainstream feature.
“Two years ago, when we had the idea for ‘Streetdance,’ 3D had this whiff around it that generally commercial filmmaking has had in the U.K. in that it’s seen as cheap in some way,” says Nick Love, who has helmed four pics for the shingle, including “The Firm” and “The Football Factory.”
“It’s such a hangover from a bygone era for me. Commercial is not necessarily uncool.”
It’s this kind of frankness about straddling the line between creative and commerce that has steadily propelled the money-conscious shingle to its current robust state.
Love, a joint owner at Vertigo alongside producers James Richardson and Allan Niblo (who co-founded the outfit in 2002) and distribution head Rupert Preston, says the company ethos is simple: Keep budgets at the right level.
“We’ve been so careful in the last 15 films we’ve produced to make sure no one loses their shirt, and so that everyone gets their money back and then some, and we’ve done very well with that,” he says.
The shingle has benefited from the home entertainment market in the past, with more than 50% of revenues coming from DVDs. Love’s laddish pics have sold better than 3.5 million units in Blighty.
“But with lads movies, there’s only so much you can achieve theatrically, and while we love making them, we’ve got more ambition,” Love says. “The first part of our new look is toward making much more commercial films.”
He adds that while some budgets will increase, “we’re not going to start making $50 million movies.”
Richardson says the idea for “Streetdance” stemmed from what the group deemed as a notable gap in the market. “We wanted to make a British dance film and give it an American glossy feel to it, but keep it at a reasonable budget because that is exactly what is missing from U.K. films — commercial, inspirational films.”
Apparently other financiers in the Blighty agreed; the U.K. Film Council put up £1 million ($1.6 million) toward the pic, and BBC Films jumped onboard the project soon after.
Now, in addition to a $9 million “Streetdance 3D” sequel in the works, the shingle has three other 3D films added to its slate, making it the most active 3D shingle in Blighty.
First up is low-budget horror pic “A Night in the Woods,” helmed by Richard Parry, which is fully financed by Vertigo and skedded to lens in October. Helmer Nick Moore is shooting the shingle’s first children’s pic, $9 million live-action pic “Horrid Henry” based on Francesca Simon’s literary character. And a 3D sequel to 2007’s horror “Shrooms” is in its early stages. Pic will be co-produced by Vertigo and Ireland’s Treasure Entertainment, which produced the original. (Vertigo distributed that pic.) “3D is in its infancy, and we want to be ahead of that as a format,” Niblo says.
Apart from the 3D slate, the company’s other major project this year is Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters,” which it developed for less than $500,000. The pic secured a slew of deals in Cannes via sales company Protagonist Pictures (its sister company) and has received kudos from the likes of Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino.
And Vertigo is also working on an $11 million feature adaptation of 1970s Brit TV show “The Sweeney,” helmed by Love and starring Ray Winstone.
The shingle likes to have a finger in every pie, which is seen in its recent investment in Germany-based 3D production house Paradise FX Europe, which worked on “Streetdance” and will house all of Vertigo’s future 3D productions.
While Vertigo may be expanding its horizons on one side, Preston says the company has two clear strategies for the future: “On one tier, we’ll have bigger, branded and budgeted films, while the other tier will be lower-budget genre pics. We’ll keep doing what we’ve always done, we’re just going to add more flavor.”