BBC Films is developing a slew of large-scale international projects for its debut feature slate under director general Greg Dyke's new drama-entertainment structure.
The UK public broadcaster's film arm wants to use the projects and an equally ambitious financing pact for bigger titles with Cobalt Media Group (formerly MM Media Capital Partners) to stop a talent drain to Hollywood.
While the first BBC-Cobalt titles are still to be firmed up -- the deal is expected to be finalised during Cannes this week -- BBC Films' largest-scale projects include the tentatively-titled China Eyes. An epic Romeo & Juliet type story, the film is set during the Boxer Revolt in turn-of-the-century China and is being written by The Woodlanders director Phil Agland.
Other exotically-set projects include an original screenplay by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh about two girls who escape from a Thai prison. Antonia Bird is to direct.
'We can offer a more convivial alternative to Hollywood,' said BBC Films chief David Thompson. 'We want to offer international talent creative, juicy parts in both comedy and drama roles, and attract some big directors back to the UK.'
BBC Films, which now comes under the auspices of the broadcaster's entertainment and drama supremo Alan Yentob, is also developing writer David Wolstencroft's The Gap, an adventure thriller about a group of teenagers travelling in South America. Other projects drawing on leading TV writing talent include Mr Nice, a Bev Doyle and Richard Kurti adaptation of celebrity drugs dealer Howard Marks' autobiography.
BBC Films has also struck a first-look deal with Paul Pawlikowski, director of last year's acclaimed Last Resort. The first project under the pact is expected to be the Juliette Towhidi-scripted Arizona, about a women who enters the prostitution world in Bosnia to find her daughter's killer. The title will be the first in BBC Films' development and production partnership with Germany's Kinowelt and Spain's Lolafilms.
Pawlikowski is also collaborating with writer Richard Hawkins on Think Of England, about a WW2 British officer in the army film unit who is seconded to make porn films for the troops.