"We're in very bullishmood. We've got some great films," says head of BBC Films David Thompson. Threemonths ago, it was announced that the Beeb's investment in film production isset to rise from $17m to $26m a year, subject to the favourable settlement ofthe current licence fee negotiations.
Here in Cannes, BBC Filmshas two titles in competition, Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation and Andrea Arnold's Red Road. Meanwhile, BBC Films'development slate is continuing to swell.
Intriguingly, the Beeb ispreparing a film about T.E. Lawrence. "This is one about Lawrence afterArabia, about his time in England when he was hiding away from the world,"Thompson explains. Howard Brenton has written the screenplay for the project,which is currently out to directors.
Among other titles Thompsonand his team are currently backing are Call Me, in which comedian Steve Coogan is to star as a maleescort. Hugo Blick is also attached to the project, on which the Beeb ispartnering with Baby Cow.
Meanwhile, Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher,Morvern Callar) is attached todirect the US-set We Need To Talk About Kevin (to be co-scripted by Ramsay and In The Bedroom writer Rob Festinger). This is an adaptation of LionelShriver's prize-winning book which looks at the tragedy of a high-schoolmassacre from the point of view of the killer's mother.
BBC Films is also pushingforward with Peter Kominsky's Embeds, about the experiences of an American embedded journalist with UStroops in Iraq. The script is by Gary Williams.
As announced, the Beeb isaboard Alec & May, the $20m lovestory about the romance between Alexander Graham Bell and a 16-year-old deafgirl. The Weinstein Company is backing the project, which was initiated throughHeadline Pictures.
BBC Films is to join withthe BBC Natural History Unit to make a big-screen documentary about meerkats."They look cute but they're not so cute," Thompson said of thephotogenic rodents.
Underlining its continuingappetite for comedy, BBC Films is striking up a development deal with ArmandoIanucci's production company.
Francesca Joseph (whose FourLast Songs screens in the market)also has a new project, set in the opera world, in development.
Thompson acknowledged thatthe promised rise in BBC Films' funding will provide a huge stimulus."We'll be able to be even more effective in the marketplace and morehelpful to the industry generally," he said.