You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Speech’ exemplifies agile indies

Pic came together without a Hollywood major

Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” offers a case study in how the indie film sector can harness opportunity in the global film biz and move quickly, even in times of economic hardship and without the help of a major Hollywood studio.

Those involved with the historical drama, toplining Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, give much of the credit to Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, who run the Australian and U.K. production company See-Saw Films.

See-Saw put together the financing and produced the film by striking deals with key distribution partners, including a multi-territory pact with the Weinstein Co., which releases the film in the U.S. on Nov. 26.

“The King’s Speech” came together with lightning speed; See-Saw closed financing in October 2009, after having the script in hand for a year.

Hooper started principal photography in November 2009 and turned in a final cut of the movie at the end of August this year, in time for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.

Behind the scenes, there were intense moments along the way. See-Saw faced a crucial decision when Fox Searchlight came knocking at its door earlier in 2009. The specialty division was keenly interested in “King’s Speech,” but there was a catch: Searchlight, owned by a studio with a sprawling international operation, wanted worldwide rights.

But that would have meant cutting out See-Saw’s earliest partners on the project, led by Momentum Pictures in the U.K. Australia’s Transmission also took an early stake in the film. See-Saw has a first-look deal with Momentum, while Transmission is a sister company.

See-Saw decided to stick to its initial plan and go the indie route to retain control.

In summer 2009, the U.K. Film Council put up a chunk of financing. In early September, the Weinstein deal was officially announced, although it had been in the works well before that. In addition to the U.S., TWC picked up rights for Germany, France, Benelux, Latin America and Hong Kong, among other territories. Glen Basner’s FilmNation came aboard to sell off remaining territories and launched the project a year ago at AFM.

Transmission releases “King’s Speech” in Australia on Boxing Day. Momentum will distribute the pic in Blighty while its parent company, Alliance, will distribute pic in Canada.

The production budget for “King’s Speech” came in at $12 million.

Tim Smith and Paul Brett’s Prescience Film Finance also injected cash into the pic.

Momentum topper Xavier Marchand said it wasn’t difficult selling the project because of Hooper, a driving force, and screenwriter David Seidler. Seidler related profoundly to the film’s subject, King George VI, since he had a debilitating stutter as a child and remembered empathizing with the British monarch.

The See-Saw Transmission teams were all on hand Friday night for an AFI gala screening of “King’s Speech” at Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood, along with Harvey Weinstein and his entourage.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Crown Vic

    Film Review: 'Crown Vic'

    Definitely the more sober-sided of two new films involving cops and cop-killers, “Crown Vic” juggles slice-of-life observation and thriller elements as a grizzled LAPD veteran shepherds a newbie through his first patrol shift. (Also opening Nov. 15 on 10 U.S. screens is “Line of Duty,” which is much more of a gonzo action thriller.) Writer-director [...]

  • The Warrior Queen of Jhansi

    Film Review: ‘The Warrior Queen of Jhansi’

    Early in “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi,” there’s a scene that feels like something you’d find in a Bollywood take on “Wonder Woman,” during which Rani Lakshmibai, the feisty monarch of the title, takes time from serving as drill instructor for a unit of female troops to deal with the harrumphing skepticism of a male [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott's 'The Last Duel' Gets the Greenlight as Disney Dates Multiple Titles

    In one of the first major greenlights since acquiring Fox, Disney is moving forward with Ridley Scott’s period drama “The Last Duel,” dating the film for Dec. 25, 2020, a prime spot for next year’s award season. The film stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck with Scott directing. The script is [...]

  • AFM American Film Market Placeholder

    AFM: Ash Baron-Cohen Developing Three Projects Hoping to Cross Over to Asia

    Shanghai Rich Culture Media, The Nakodo Group and Bullseye Pictures have signed a three-project co-production, co-financing and co-distribution deal for Asia and Hollywood at the American Film Market. Projects involved include films “My Name is Mars” and “The Blind Bastards Club,” and a historical TV drama series. Sacha Baron-Cohen’s cousin Ash Baron-Cohen (90s films “Bang” [...]

  • Lynette Howell Taylor Stephanie Allain

    Oscars: Lynette Howell Taylor, Stephanie Allain to Produce Academy Awards

    Oscar-nominated producer Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain will produce the 92nd Oscars on Feb. 9. Academy president David Rubin made the announcement Friday. “The combined producing talents of Lynette and Stephanie will bring dynamism and excitement to the 92nd Oscars show,” said Rubin. “Their vast production experience ranges from groundbreaking independent film to global [...]

  • Nicolas Cage The Unbearable Weight of

    Nicolas Cage to Play Himself in 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent'

    Lionsgate is in final negotiations to buy the Nicolas Cage movie project “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” The “Unbearable” package includes Tom Gormican attached to direct from a script he wrote with Kevin Etten. Cage will produce via his Saturn Films banner, alongside Mike Nilon and Kevin Turen. Cage will play a version of [...]

  • Sophia Di Martino Loki

    'Loki': Sophia Di Martino to Co-Star With Tom Hiddleston in Marvel Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Yesterday’s” Sophia Di Martino is in talks to join Tom Hiddleston in Disney Plus and Marvel’s “Loki” limited series. Hiddleston is reprising the role of the antihero with “Sex Education” and “Daybreak” director Kate Herron helming the series. “Rick & Morty” scribe Michael Waldron penned the pilot and will act as show creator and exec [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content