The low-budget genre boom is not just for newbies: take veteran producers Mark Huffam and Simon Bosanquet, who have founded new UK-based production company Generator Entertainment.
'We hatched this idea a few years ago,' explains Bosanquet, whose credits include Wuthering Heights and Ripley's Game (Huffam has worked on the likes of Mamma Mia! The Movie and Saving Private Ryan). 'I'd been working as an independent producer for a few years and all independent producers seem to work from film to film, struggling to meet overheads. We wanted to come up with a model that let us build a company more efficiently. We wanted to get that stream of products with an identifiable market.'
The company will handle larger projects as they come along, but the focus is a slate of thrillers with budgets of $3m or less. The first film, Paddy Breathnach's Freakdog (formerly titled Red Mist) is now complete and will have its world premiere on August 22 at Film4 FrightFest in London. Arielle Kebbel, Stephen Dillane and Sarah Carter star in the supernatural thriller, about a coma patient who wakes when medical students use untested drugs on him, leading to out-of-body experiences.
The Generator pipeline also has Cherrybomb wrapped; Chris Hartwill's supernatural thriller Ghost Machine (working title) shooting in August; Malachi Smyth's gang thriller Beach Boys shooting in September; and James Roday's cannibal satire Gravy shooting in Winnipeg in November, with Los Angeles-based producer Kerry Rock.
Australian co-production slasher mockumentary Video 8 will also shoot later this year, with Jodi Matterson's Wild Eddie Films. Partners have been key on the first two films of the slate as well: Geronimo's Michael Kelly producing Freakdog and Michael Casey's Green Park Films and Octagon Films working on Cherrybomb.
Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros d'Sa's Cherrybomb is not strict genre fare, Bosanquet says it is 'more of a coming-of-age drama about two teenage boys planning the best summer of their lives, until a young femme fatale dares them to impress her with dangerous activities.' Harry Potter's Rupert Grint is one of the stars, and Huffam quips: 'He's nothing like Ron Weasley in this film.'
Generator's founders (who include Paramount veteran Thomas Thorstensson) say that having strong track records helped them bring some key partners on board early: Limelight, Northern Ireland Screen and Framestore Features are investors and The Little Film Company is the sales partner for the slate.
Due partly to all the experienced hands on deck and the post resources at Framestore, Huffam notes: 'You're never going to look at these films and say, 'That's a low-budget movie.''
Northern Ireland Screen has been particularly supportive, as Generator's slate will shoot largely around Belfast. 'There's a bustling young film industry there,' Huffam notes. 'Northern Ireland Screen has been so pro-active on the business side. Also, it's a very cost-effective region to shoot in the UK.'
Having a team concentrated in Northern Ireland helps with the pace of productions. Bosanquet says: 'It's not much different than shooting a TV series. We expect this to be like moving from episode to episode.'
In the US, Anchor Bay Entertainment has taken rights to the first 12 Generator projects, and limited theatrical runs are planned for most, if not all, films. Freakdog is slated for an October release.Larger Generator projects will include family adventure film Vanilla Gorilla, which could shoot later this year in South Africa starring Pierce Brosnan.
But at the moment it thrives on the energetic pace of genre films. Bosanquet says: 'You're much more in control of your own destiny working on smaller films. We have partners and investors that we need to make happy but we have the authority to make decisions ourselves. It gives you a much more free hand.'