Former Tartan boss Hamish McAlpine is taking the leap back into the film business.
The flamboyant and controversial McAlpine (who will be interviewed on stage this week by Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw at the Cambridge Film Festival) has announced a slate of new feature films that he is producing.
First set to go is Almost America, on which McAlpine is working with fellow producers Marsha Lee and Carole Siller. This is being written and directed by Justin Hardy (whose recent TV credits include BBC film The Man Who Crossed Hitler).
Almost America is set during the American War of Independence. It is based on the true story of Henry Knox, who - together with his brother - helped change the course of American history by breaking the siege of Boston in 1776. The film is being made through Generation Films, the London-based company that McAlpine now runs with Siller.
McAlpine said the film, budgeted “under $10 million,” would be financed “through a combination of private equity and advanced film sales.” He hopes to have the cast finalised and a sales company on board in time for the AFM in early November. The film will shoot in Canada.
The ex-Tartan chief revealed that he is also working on a new feature with photographer and filmmaker Rankin. That project, a ghost story, is titled Lost Girl. The plan is to shoot in 2012.
Meanwhile, McAlpine is planning a further film with his long-time collaborator Richard Jobson on Helter Skelter, a thriller that will be set in Scotland.
In London, McAlpine has recently produced the play Burnt Oak by new writer Laurence Lynch. The plan now is to make a film version of that.
All this activity marks a comeback for McAlpine, whose distribution company Tartan Films collapsed in 2008.
“I took two or three years out. There was a lot of mess to sort out from Tartan. I didn’t really think that until I got that sorted, I could do justice to anything else,” McAlpine commented of his sabbatical from the film scene.
McAlpine said that he had been “investing in property” in Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. He confirmed that he is not involved in Palisades Tartan, the US company that took over the film library of Tartan. “I am not involved at all. There were artistic differences. I was artistic and they were different!”
Asked about the unpaid creditors left when Tartan fell into administration three years ago, McAlpine replied: “I am by far and away the biggest creditor…at this stage, we are still waiting for the liquidators to decide what the pay-out is.”
McAlpine said that he had no current plans to get back into UK distribution. “I got offered a very substantial amount of money before Cannes 2010 to start a Tartan mark two but I just couldn’t work out a business model at the moment of how in the UK at the moment, it is possible to make money doing small independent films and so I actually passed on the opportunity,” he said.
In Cambridge on Thursday, at an event titled “The Tartan Terror,” McAlpine will be discussing his long career.