BFI London Film Festival

Source: Screen file

Mia Bays, Dionne Edwards, Tristan Goligher, Mike Goodridge

“I wish we did more original stuff. Our world is culturally poorer for the fact that we all, for business reasons, go after adapted material,” reflected UK producer Tristan Goligher on the film industry’s tendancy to reach for existing intellectual property as source material.

Goligher, who has produced titles through The Bureau such as Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, Aleem Khan’s After Love and Harry Wootliff’s True Things, was speaking on a BFI London Film Festival panel yesterday (October 11) alongside Pretty Red Dress director Dionne Edwards and former Protagonist Pictures CEO and Good Chaos producer Mike Goodridge.

“Optioned novels are easier to place. People understand what you’re selling. It’s sometimes much more interesting to work with an original idea, but it’s harder to raise the funding. If you have a book that’s reasonably well known, it’s easier to get the finance,” said Goodridge.

The panel, titled ‘under pressure: challenges and opportunities in feature films’ development’, was moderated by BFI Film Fund director Mia Bays.

BBC Film’s Eva Yates was billed to sit on the panel, but had to stand down owing to unforeseen circumstances.

“When I was a sales agent, adapted material, remakes, these were the things distributors loved because they wanted to know what it is, they feel they know what it is,” continued Goodridge.

“Markets prefer adaptations. They are always more straightforward. But I found when I was a sales agent that original films were the ones that worked the most. I remember when we sold [Yorgos Lanthimos 2015 feature] The Lobster, that was an insane script. Completely surprising. People read it and thought – what is this? Why would I buy this? Originality in cinemas works, but it’s hard to get those films made.”

Edwards spoke of the need to find alternative ways to demonstrate your vision when pitching original material. “I learnt from [working in] TV and the pitching process that you need look books now. I’m one of the worst graphic designers ever, but I’ve had to learn how to do that. Directors create 30-page amazing visual look books, and I think that comes from directors going across mediums, having worked in commercials.”

The panel also reiterated the importance of a robust, which often means lengthy, development process to make quality projects.

“The UK is in such a fortunate position compared to the US. We have great partners with the BFI, BBC Film and Film4 who really care about the work of development and are really smart with how you develop it. It’s a safe place to develop a project before taking it out to market. You can take your time, build it,” said Goligher.

“Development is the key, certainly in film,” added Goodridge. ”If you are well developed, and that often involves several years, that makes the difference. You see it on some of the [streaming] platforms – the content isn’t very good, and why is it not very good? Because it isn’t very well developed.”