Producer Robert Chartoff emerged more battered and bruised from Berlin competition film The Country Of My Skull than he did from his breakout boxing picture Rocky.
At a seminar organised by the European Co-production Market yesterday, he described the financing of John Boorman's Skull as "absolutely brutal," and said that the film was rejected by every studio. It was then offered to every natural financier, before being cobbled together as a Euros15m UK-Ireland co-production.
The film had 17 production and financing bodies to its "inter-party agreement" and the complications of the financial architecture meant "we had no money until two days before the shoot," said Chartoff. That required the producers to turn to development finance companies, which can charge up to 25% per year annual rates of interest.
Boorman said that the financial complexities meant that the film racked up a legal bill of £300,000. But he saved his sharpest criticism for the UK's public finance system.
Some £2m from the UK Film Council was channelled through Lottery franchise The Film Consortium. "One of the reasons the budget went so high was that all the financiers charged us for lending us someone else's money."
Although the film was set and shot entirely in South Africa, the South African spend was kept below 30% of the total in order to qualify as European.
Despite boasting a major US star, Samuel L Jackson, Skull amassed 16 of a 19 possible points necessary to pass as European under the European Co-Production Convention. For convention purposes Jackson, however, had to be categorised as second lead, thus costing the production only two points, rather than the three had he been the lead. The move was permitted as he had less screen time than the film's European star Juliette Binoche.