This time last year, UK producer-writer-actor-director Ray Burdis was happily retired and making wine in the south of France. But his passion for film-making, and encouragement from his friends in the industry, brought him back to the UK where he has set up a new production company, Britflick Productions.
'I had been writing scripts while I was away, so it seemed like a good idea. Plus (wine-making) was getting a bit boring,' Burdis laughs.
Launched in September, Britflick's objective is to produce a slate of good- quality, low-budget UK films over the next five years.
Burdis, who produced the critically acclaimed 1990 biopic The Krays, and directed and co-produced previous low-budget Brit flicks Final Cut and Love, Honour & Obey under his former banner, Fugitive Films, is keen to ensure his new venture is not a one-hit wonder. 'I want to have a rollover fund which will allow me to produce a good slate of films over the next five years,' he says. 'It's about spreading the risk.'
The first film on the slate is a gangster project called The Wee Man, about the Glaswegian 'Godfather' Paul Ferris, adapted by Burdis from Ferris' autobiography The Ferris Conspiracy.
John Hannah, Ray Winstone and Bill Patterson are attached to the project, which is due to start shooting in spring 2009 on a budget of around $3.3m (£2.2m). 'I don't see the point of making a film for $6m (£4m) when you can do it for $3m (£2m),' says Burdis. 'Often all you get is better catering.'
Other projects in the pipeline include Full English Breakfast, set in an inner-London school, which Ashley Walters (star of Bullet Boy and the BBC's Hustle) has been lined up to co-direct, and Function At The Junction, a feature about a Northern Soul nightclub, being developed by Sadie Frost with Rhys Ifans and Matt Di Angelo attached to star. There are also plans to make a sequel to The Krays in 2010.
'I don't want to be pigeon-holed in the gangster genre,' claims Burdis. 'The aim is to make a wide variety of films - from horror to comedy. And I would love to make a period drama.'
It is now a case of securing the funding. 'There is a lot of interest from film funds and high-net worth individuals,' says Burdis. 'We have the funding to film The Wee Man tomorrow if we wanted to but we have committed to creating a slate and we're not going to start until the whole thing is in place.'
Burdis is also keen to use his contacts and resources to nurture new UK talent. 'A proportion of our investment will be used for first-time British writers, directors and actors because they need a platform,' he says. 'We have got a great development committee who will be looking for new talent we can bring on board and develop.'
And will Britflick Productions be embracing the digital revolution' 'We want to make sure we are exploiting every single aspect of the media, and we will certainly be shooting some of our stuff digitally. But I am old-fashioned - you can't beat a good story.'