Sadie Frost and Emma Comley’s Blonde To Black Pictures ramps up its slate with Buttercup Bill and Set The Thames On Fire.
Sadie Frost may be a household name in the UK, but her new production company Blonde To Black Pictures is the opposite of a vanity company with a fancy office and no work to show.
As she points out, “We haven’t had an office or a phone,” while making their first three projects, short Dotty, feature Buttercup Bill (now in post) and forthcoming Set The Thames On Fire. They had raised finance (EIS, SEIS and equity from backer Andrew Green) for the initial slate and have now also raised some finance for the company’s small overheads. They might even get a phone soon.
Frost’s partner in the company (and the blonde to her black), Emma Comley, thinks this approach has been the best way to start. “We needed a couple of films out there,” she says. “The next phase will be using financing for the company to develop a slate.”
Foremost on the agenda is supporting new talent. “It’s important to us to nurture young talent and give people an opportunity,” Frost explains. “It’s giving them the chance and being confident in their vision.”
Dotty and Set The Thames On Fire are directed by Ben Charles Edwards, who moved into film-making from a photography background. Dotty, starring Frost and her son Rudy Law, is about a lonely boy who meets an eccentric woman in a caravan in the Nevada desert. It has picked up awards at several small festivals after being made for just $3,300 (£2,000). Frost and Edwards first met seven years ago when he cast her in a short.
Frost and Comley will produce Set The Thames On Fire, Edwards’ debut feature, which will shoot in March/April in east London. Michael Winder (of Channel 4’s Misfits) leads the cast, which is about “two lost poets in futuristic London”, Frost says. Comley describes it as, “Withnail & I as directed by Peter Greenaway or John Waters… A lot of low-budget British films recently have been grey estate films. But Ben comes with this crazy vision.”
Other rising talents with whom they have collaborated are Buttercup Bill co-writer/directors Emilie Richard-Froozan and Remy Bennett. Buttercup Bill, shot in New Orleans and taking advantage of the Louisiana tax credit, is a “disturbing love story”. It follows a young woman who learns shocking news about a girl she grew up with, and starts seeing visions of her imaginary friend, mischievous cowboy Buttercup Bill.
They are especially proud the film’s production had about 80% female cast and crew.
Comley praises Buttercup Bill for “breaking a lot of boundaries and rules”. The film is now out to sales companies before a festival premiere later this year.
After Set The Thames On Fire, there are a further three to four features in development and another film is likely to shoot by the end of 2014.
Frost is also writing several scripts herself and may one day direct (she previously directed short Mrs Olsen), but for now wants to concentrate on building the production company. They also plan to continue to work with Edwards, and are developing the short Dotty into a feature-length script.
So far, the budgets have been $414,000 (£250,000) or less. Frost explains: “We’ve kept the low budgets without using big names so we can make something challenging.” Future projects will likely be in the range of $2.5m (£1.5m). “We will still do the small ones too. We like working with first-time directors,” Frost adds.
Frost and Comley met 20 years ago and say their skillsets balance each other - Frost with the overview of the industry, while Comley is an experienced line producer and producer who has worked on top-level music videos and commercials.
Frost, who was part of the Natural Nylon production outfit with her ex-husband Jude Law and other actors including Ewan McGregor, wanted to learn more about the film business - “I want to understand every single part” - and is doing a masters in film studies at Raindance.
For her coursework, she has met several UK producers for advice, including Sarah Radclyffe, Pippa Cross and Rebecca O’Brien. “They gave me some good advice… basically to just get on and do it.”