Hart Sharp Entertainment - the New York-based production outfit behind Boys Don't Cry and Sundance co-winner You Can Count On Me - has boarded its second UK picture within a year - Lily And The Secret Planting which it will co-produce with the UK's Sarah Radclyffe Productions and Strawberry Vale Film and TV Productions.
Samantha Morton and Linda Bassett are in negotiations to star in the London-set romantic comedy which Hettie Macdonald will direct. Hart Sharp principals John Hart and Jeff Sharp will produce with Sarah Radclyffe and Strawberry Vale's Caroline Hewitt. Cameron McCracken, now deputy managing director of Pathe Pictures, originally developed the script by Lucinda Coxon and took it to Radclyffe. He will likely take a producer credit, but Pathe is not involved in the project.
Ironically Macdonald's collaborator on her debut film Beautiful Thing - playwright and screenwriter Jonathan Harvey - is currently scripting Icon: The Life And Times Of Leigh Bowery for Hart Sharp and FilmFour which is a biopic of the 80s club icon who became the muse for artist Lucien Freud before dying of AIDS.
Hart and Sharp said they hope to be in production on the $4m-$5m Lily in late spring 2001 and will make up the balance of the budget that is not covered by pre-sales and UK Film Council lottery funding with money from their True Film Fund, a privately raised $12m fund which was created to finance three to five films in the $2m-$3m range. The UK lottery funding is subject to confirmation from the Film Council of extension of an award originally made in December 1998.
The first film to benefit from the Hart Sharp fund is Lift, an African-American drama currently in post-production. It was written and directed by Boston-based DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter and features Kerry Washington and Lonette McKee as estranged daughter and mother trying to patch up their relationship.
"By being based in New York City, a lot of material comes to us not only from the US but from Europe and we are currently seeking out strategic partners in Europe so that we can develop and produce more in Europe," said Hart, who describes Lily as an "urban fable about a young woman taking care of her mother who falls for an Australian at a local plant nursery."
Hart Sharp's You Can Count On Me directed by Kenneth Lonergan opens domestically on Nov 17 through Paramount Classics and is already generating awards heat. It screens at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Last year, Hart Sharp's Boys Don't Cry, a co-production with Killer Films, also screened at Venice and Toronto and went on to win an Academy Award for actress Hilary Swank.