Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free productions is known mostly as the production company behind the Scott’s own pictures like “Robin Hood” or forays into other American titles such as “Cyrus” and “The A-Team.”
But though the Brit-born Scotts may be entrenched as Hollywood filmmakers, they’re forging ahead in an effort to recruit British and European talent to make Euro-based commercial pics, tapping well-known Brit exec Liza Marshall as head of film and television.
“When Ridley Scott rings you up and asks you to come and work with him, it’s quite hard to say no. He has directed some of my all-time favorite movies, as has Tony,” says Marshall, who joined Scott Free U.K. at the start of the year.
During her time at the BBC and Channel 4, where she rose to be head of drama, she built up a reputation for producing hard-hitting miniseries such as ’60s-set gangster drama “The Long Firm” and “Red Riding,” a tale of murder, power and corruption that Ridley Scott plans to remake, as well as gritty single dramas like “Boy A” and controversial docudramas like “Death of a President.”
Marshall was also drawn to Scott Free by the chance to work on feature pics with Hollywood-level ambition.
“To work in film with this kind of backing and with this level of contact with the U.S. is fantastic,” she says. “There is the potential here to build something really exciting out of the U.K.”
When announcing her appointment, Ridley Scott said that at a time when the U.S. specialty biz was going through a period of uncertainty, “it is an opportune time to step up our commitment to European filmmaking.” He added that he wanted to “offer a real home for creative talent and help them navigate the new business models that will be needed to get films made.”
Through building up international partnerships, and drawing on Ridley and Tony Scott’s Hollywood contacts, as well as her own talent relationships in the U.K., Marshall intends to assemble a strong slate of three to four pics a year, on a par with a company like Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp in France.
She points to one project, “The Last Werewolf,” as an example of the ambition that the company has for its slate.
Based on a novel by Glen Duncan, the pic depicts a passionate love story between two people who just happen to be werewolves. It will be budgeted at around $20 million-$30 million, dependent on cast. Gallic web TF1 is co-producing.
Marshall says the project’s action theme and setting across Europe is a good example of the company’s mandate to make films that are both intelligent and commercial.
Marshall’s strong working relationships with a wide range of up-and-coming talent in the U.K. was a key factor in leading Ridley Scott to bring her to Scott Free, and she’s lost no time in drawing that talent to Scott Free. In Toronto, the company announced that it had greenlit the next project from Rowan Joffe, whose “Brighton Rock” preemed at the fest. Joffe is already working on the script for psychological thriller “Before I Go to Sleep,” which will go into production next year. Joffe and Marshall had known each other since they worked together on a project when they were in their 20s, Marshall explains, and they had worked together again on Channel 4 drama “The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall,” which won a BAFTA.
Marshall’s ambition is to encourage British talent to be bolder. “There are some really talented writers in the U.K., but they need to be encouraged to think on a bigger scale. People in America are used to pitching big movies, and writers seem to be less used to doing that here,” she says.
The company is also working on feature “Life In a Day,” which it is producing alongside YouTube. It has collected 5,500 hours of footage from 80,000 uploads from more than 150 countries, all shot on the same day. Director Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walker are now sifting though the material with a team of 20 or so assistants, with the intention of premiering the pic at Sundance.
“There’s some extraordinary entries and some are incredibly moving,” she says.
On the TV side, the bar is also set high. Scott Free U.K. is planning a three-part series based on Nick Cave’s book “The Death of Bunny Munro,” which will be directed by John Hillcoat, and it is also developing a long-running series about a boy band, “Boy Banned,” for Channel 4, which is written by thesp Rupert Everett and Darren Little, one of writers on top Brit sudser “Coronation Street.”