The Revolution Films producer talks about LFF opening night film 360 and Ron Howard’s upcoming Formula 1 project Rush.

Revolution Films co-founder and producer Andrew Eaton has had a busy year, with Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna and Fernando Meirelles’ 360 both world premiering last month at Toronto. Now, 360 opens the BFI London Film Festival tonight, and Eaton has already lined up another project with 360 writer Peter Morgan, which will be the bigger-budget Formula 1 project Rush. Ron Howard will direct that film, which will shoot in the UK and Germany starting in late February 2012.

Also, Eaton is serving as executive producer on Good Vibrations, about a legendary Belfast record-store owner. With Revolution’s other founder, director Michael Winterbottom, he also has a number of other projects in the works: Jack Black-starring Bailout; Steve Coogan-starring Paul Raymond biopic; the long-running prison story 7 Days (which is set to be delivered to Channel 4 in early 2012); and a potential second series of The Trip (as well as an American version of the series, see story here).

At what point did you come on 360?

I had never worked with David Linde or Peter [Morgan] before, and it was Linde who approached me. Linde knew Peter through Frost/Nixon, and they were looking for a hands-on producer for 360. He sent me the script and Fernando [Meirelles] was already on board, and that was it for me. It’s tricky to step away from Michael for a bit but we’re both such huge fans of Fernando’s. The combination of him and Peter’s script was too good to miss, really.

How did the financing come together?

It did fall apart, like all independent films seem to do at some point [laughs]. About 25-30% of it was coming out of Austria, Peter [Morgan] lives in Vienna, so there is money from Austrian television and the Austrian funds. Then the UK Film Council came on board and BBC Films was already involved. There was a big chunk of about $5m – about 30% of the budget – that was private equity coming from Prescience, but at the last minute that fell away. The night we were closing it disappeared. So we had to find another set of investors, which we did. And fortunately everybody held their nerve. Having people like the BBC and the Film Council, they are professional and solid enough not to panic.

I called up Chris and Roberta Hanley, who had financed most of [Winterbottom’s] The Killer Inside Me, and I’d known them for years. They are huge fans of Fernando and have been trying to work with him for years. They stepped in and also brought on another investor, Emanuel Michael from Unison Films in New York.

It seems shooting in so many different places would be a logistical challenge, especially with top-level cast?

The nice thing for me about doing this one was that ability to export what Michael and I had been learning over the last 15 years. There aren’t any set rules but there is a philosophy and Fernando totally bought it. He only wanted a small, very mobile crew. In the past sometimes when you go abroad and do coproductions, you tend to go there and get told, ‘this is how we do things.’ In this instance we went there and said, ‘we’d like to do it this way.’

It was more a logistical, physical thing about moving between places, and allowing time for travel. And every time you started again it takes you three or four days to get up to speed.

The shoot was 10 weeks, including all the moving around.

How was it juggling a 10-week shoot while also still running Revolution?

It’s tricky, but the motto that Michael and I work to is that we didn’t get into this business to have a company or an office, but it helps to have one. We only have a small team of about five people. We say we’re in this business to make films. We try to keep everybody geared up for that and try to involve them as much as we can in the practical side of making films.

Were 360 and Trishna shooting at the same time?

Trishna started shooting just a little after 360, but because Michael and Fernando are both really quick in post, they both dovetailed in the end.

Michael, and this is also true of Fernando, is one of those directors who understands and is anxious to know every aspect of the rest of the business, so when they are making creative decisions they know what the budget is, how much money we have left, then they can decide how to cut their cloth. I’ve been spoiled; it’s been great working with Micheal over the years because we’ve learned it together.

How did you come on board for Rush?

Peter had written that as a sort of spec script just before we’d started on 360 so he let me read it. And I was really anxious to continue working with Peter, we really worked well together.

This is a bigger scale film in terms of budget but we want to try a similar approach, and get the best value for money that we can.

Is Rush the first time you’ve worked with Working Title?

We’ve tried to do stuff together in the past, a couple of times. This is the first time we’ll be sharing a credit.

Do you think your styles of working are compatible?

The nice thing about it is that I get on well with Eric Fellner, and from the very beginning he’s been very very open – as has been Ron Howard – saying that ‘We don’t normally do films this way, but you do, so we want you to do it your way.’ Because they would be more associated with the studio way of working, it’s nice, it’s about mutual respect. I have complete admiration for what Tim and Eric have done but I wouldn’t be able to do that. And at the same time, Eric has been really gracious towards me about the way we do things. It’s a good marriage.

And in a way, the world is changing and the possibility of doing things – it feels like the studios are moving towards more tentpole big movies and then there are smaller projects that we will all fight over and work on. That’s been Michael and I’s bread and butter for the past 15 years so we’re quite well placed to take advantage of that.

What’s it like working with Ron Howard so far?

He’s great. And he has that relationship with Peter [after Frost/Nixon] which was great. He’s a big sports fan, without particularly having a specific knowledge of Formula 1, but he was attracted to the characters [of Niki Lauda and James Hunt] in the story as much as in the action in the story.

That’s the way we’re pitching it. Of course we have to get the racing right, but it’s really a story about two guys, and ambition, and what you do with your life and how far you’re prepared to go.

What will the challenges be to film the racing?

The rest of the story is pretty straightforward in terms of dramatic filmmaking, so we’re spending a huge amount of time figuring out the racing. Part of it is because coverage on television these days is so advanced that you’ve got to then add something else from a filmic point of view. And with Senna’s huge success, it was interesting to watch that on screen. We’ve spent a lot of time, we’re doing a lot of tests, we’re looking at film of a lot of historic races. We are doing a lot of previsuals. There is a desire to get it right and get the detail and authenticity right.

We are all excited. Something like 25% of our budget will be on visual effects [Double Negative is on board for effects], so that’s exciting to have a new challenge like that.