David Mackenzie, fresh off the Sundance premiere of Perfect Sense and last week’s world premiere of You Instead (which also heads to SXSW), has two new projects in the works through Sigma Films, the Glasgow-based production company he co-founded.
Mackenzie is now adapting the sci-fi novel Journey Into Space by Toby Litt, which he describes as “a very interesting generational sci-fi story.” Mackenzie has finished a breakdown of the novel and will now start writing the first draft of the script.
Litt’s well-received novel is about a two rebellious passengers on a vast generation ship leaving a troubled earth to start a new society.
Separately, Mackenzie spent three and a half months last year in the world’s most remote inhabited island Tristan da Cunha, to research a fictional feature. The film will be loosely adapted from policeman Conrad Glass’s book Rockhopper Copper.
“My plan is to go back again a second time to actually write the script in collaboration with the locals, to try to get the dialogue nailed, and then go back a third time with a small crew and find the cast and live there for four months making this movie with local people both behind of and in front of the camera, almost like an old fashioned workshop movie,” Mackenzie tells Screen.
(Mackenzie will be screening some of the research footage he shot on Tristan da Cunha during a SXSW concert by band Shearwater).
Meanwhile, he and producer Gillian Berrie are celebrating Sigma’s 15th anniversary.
The company is also in post-production (alongside Blinder Films) now on Ciaran Foy’s horror thriller Citadel, which shot in November and December. Aneurin Barnard & James Cosmo star in the story about feral children spreading fear in a tower block.
Sigma co-founder/producer Gillian Berrie says that the company is also working on another feature idea with Ciaran Foy, as well as developing the first feature film by Johnny Barrington.
Another debut feature on the slate will be Colin Kennedy directing Atlantic Bridge, which has been written by Andrea Gibb (Dear Frankie).
Also, Sigma continues to move ahead on Advance Party II, the rules-driven filmmaking initiative devised with Denmark’s Zentropa and Ireland’s Subotica. After success during the first round with the likes of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, the next series of features is set to be directed by Rory Bresnihan, Esther May Campbell, Ciaran Foy, Steph Green, Adrian McDowell, Daniel Mulloy and Paul Wright.
Sigma is also making its first move into television, working on a TV drama for the BBC set against the glory days of shipping industry on the Clyde River, which Berrie and Mackenzie describe as “Dallas meets Deadwood.”
And Film City Glasgow, which Sigma is involved in, is at full capacity in the renovated Govan Town Hall. The Film City is hoping to expand its remit to develop a stand-alone production studio. Berrie says a £1.5m site has been identified and now more financing is needed.
While speaking about Sigma’s 15 year milestone, Berrie worries for the state of independent producers in the UK. “To survive as a production company in this country making feature films is nothing short of a miracle,” she said. “Because everything is designed to weaken you and keep you penniless. It takes years to get your head around recoupment schedules, because it’s so complex.”
She continued: “You’re made to feel like it’s a privilege to be making a film, and you take what you can get. For God’s sake we need to empower the producers. The culture and structure has to change… and if producers are asked to defer [their fees], they should defer to first position, not to last position.”