Like many producers, Phil Hunt of Head Gear Films had ambitions to expand into other areas of the business. "I knew in-house sales was a good idea, it was just a question of finding the right people to partner with," Hunt says. "There aren't that many good sales agents out there."
Enter Hilary Davis and Stephen Kelliher, who had known Hunt for years and officially started working with Head Gear in early 2006 when they headed the London-based film sales team for Australia's Beyond Films. During last year's Berlin Film Festival, the companies announced an investment fund that has backed projects including Nick Broomfield's Ghosts and Anthony Byrne's How About You.
After discussing prospects with Head Gear, Davis, Kelliher and Antonio Salas resigned from Beyond in December and launched the sales company, Bankside, the following month. "You don't get opportunities like this very often, and we wanted to grasp it with both hands," Kelliher says. Davis and Hunt will be co-managing directors of Bankside while Kelliher will serve as director of sales & marketing and Salas as sales & acquisitions assistant.
Davis adds: "It was the allure of the opportunity and working for a private British company backed by private equity." Publicly traded Beyond has since shut its film-sales arm, and Bankside has taken the rights to the eight films Beyond had been actively selling, including Richard Laxton's Life & Lyrics and Philip Haas' The Situation.
The company launches at Berlin's European Film Market with a full slate of projects from pre-production to completion. Bankside has just acquired The Baker, a Wales-set comedy starring Damian Lewis that was written and directed by his brother Gareth. The company also has the market debut screening of Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger's Sparkle, starring Bob Hoskins and Stockard Channing.
Kelliher says light-hearted films such as these should appeal to buyers. "Something like The Baker has a real chance - it's a comedy and it's British but at the same time it's very universal. Sparkle is as well. One thing we noticed at AFM is that people want happy, feelgood films - not just comedies, but life-affirming films."
Head Gear and Bankside share a Soho office and have a close - but not exclusive - relationship. Hunt, Greg Cruttwell and Compton Ross will continue as the co-managing directors of Head Gear, with Maria Carrion as the company's head of production while also co-ordinating acquisitions for Bankside.
Bankside has the advantage of being "financially comfortable" thanks to private backers, Hunt says, and being able to put up funding for minimum guarantees against worldwide rights as well as access to Head Gear's existing gap-financing fund.
The operation is also lean enough to be responsive to both producers and buyers. Adds Davis: "In any one year we're never going to handle a massive number of films, so if producers phone up they get through to us immediately."
BANKSIDE'S BERLIN EFM LINE-UP
The Etruscan Mask
How About You
Life & Lyrics