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Gunslinger targets UK Scarface, more films with IM Global and staff expansion

Revolver’s production arm Gunslinger plans the UK Scarface, internal expansion and will push more films through IM Global’s genre label Octane.

Revolver’s production arm Gunslinger is currently in post-production on its fourth film, Offender. Dubbed the British A Prophet, Offender stars rising talent Joe Cole as a prisoner seeking to serve justice in a notorious young offenders institute.

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Visceral and uncompromising, the film is exactly the type of commercially driven, edgy action-drama that last year won over IM Global’s genre label Octane.

Octane has already pre-sold the film in 14 markets, including to Metropolitan in France and Tiberius Film in Germany. 

Gunslinger producer Nick Taussig says that the collaboration with IM Global has opened previously closed doors: “As a UK producer there is massive value to having a US company selling your movie. Many foreign distributors don’t believe UK films can travel and see them as parochial but a US company selling your film inspires confidence - they are very commercially minded and have great leverage.”

That leverage has shaped recent Gunslinger films from their inception: “Even at pitch stage, we are sending IM a one pager and saying ‘can you sell this?’”

After agreeing to sell Offender and Lenny McLean biopic The Guv’nor, a slate project budgeted in the $5-10m range, Octane has committed to two more Gunslinger films: military drama Bootneck, written by Nicolas Small, about a young man who enrolls in the Marines in order to escape prison, and Electric, which Taussig calls a UK Scarface.

Offender co-star English Frank will star in the latter, which charts the rise and violent fall of a drug lord in London’s criminal underworld. Written by Gunslinger’s in-house writer Paul Van Carter, who also wrote Offender and Shank, The Guv’nor writer Martin Askew and singer turned actor English Frank, Taussig says the film will do more than it says on the tin:

“We were talking to English Frank about the very good TV drama Top Boy, which he said didn’t capture life as he knew it on the streets. So we thought about how we could marry his ideas with the type of film that had huge popular culture significance, like a Scarface. This film is Animal Kingdom meets Scarface. That’s the pitch. It will be a violent film that pushes the audience to the limit but it will also be a thoughtful film about what makes a sociopath. The aim is to try and get both in the can this year, and both for around $1m.”

The $1m budget represents a viable business model for a company that has a track record of generating strong results throughout the value chain often thanks to savvy marketing campaigns. Revolver recently picked up three prizes at the BVA awards.

“There’s a reason the budgets are around £1m,” says Taussig. “You’re looking at 50% recovery from UK. As long as we deliver a good film that is achievable.”

The production arm is currently run by Taussig with associate producer Alex Georgiou and writer/producer Van Carter but the outift is looking to expand and expects to have a head of development on board by the end of the year.

The expansion is necessary for a company which is seeing a growing interest in its brand. The Guv’nor is attracting interest from A-list cast and the prospect of a sequel to Revolver’s biggest box office hit Anuvahood has created buzz on social networks: “We’re weighing up how to shape it as a more international property,” says Taussig of the latter.

But while the company is hitting its production stride, Taussig credits his experience as a distributor as key to the success of Gunslinger’s current slate:

“Gunslinger is aiming to make films for budgets that match their market value. As a distributor I have so rarely seen that. The numbers often don’t stack up because a producer is not close enough to the market. We are aiming for that Luc Besson model. He put two fingers up at the French cultural establishment which gives a lot of money to obscure art house films that more often than not don’t make their money back on the international stage. We wanted to follow Besson’s example by making genre films that appeal primarily at home but then also abroad.”

Gunslinger prides itself on knowing its audience as well as the market and so far it has not missed its mark.

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