Film4 is grabbing headlines as its biggest film yet, Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones, gears up to shoot this autumn. It is just one of 12-14 films that Channel 4's film division is making this year - even more that the usual six to eight per year.
Peter Carlton used to run the now-defunct Film4 Lab but has since taken that lower-budget ethos to a variety of projects at Film4. That means a particularly busy year, says Carlton, who is now Film4's senior commissioning executive. "We've been slight victims of our own success with low-budget work," Carlton says of Film4's role with the low-budget studio Warp X (alongside the UK Film Council, Screen Yorkshire, EM Media and Optimum Releasing) as well as its own small films. Film4 also works with innovative shorts through the Cinema Extreme initiative with the Ukfc.
Warp X has its first two projects in post: hedonism-gone-wrong thriller Donkey Punch from Olly Blackburn and personal documentary Complete History by Chris Waitt. This month, shooting begins on human-trafficking thriller Hush. Two more Warp X projects are already greenlit for late 2007 and one for spring 2008.
"We're trying to mix and match the kinds of projects we work on," Carlton says of Warp X. "The ones we're starting with are genre films, but ones that hit the zeitgeist, they are about contemporary society. Genre or comedy can sometimes be the Trojan Horse to smuggle in more serious purposes."
Of course, Film4 also works with larger-budget projects. Carlton explains: "What we do at Film4 is work in two different ways - largely what Tessa (Ross, head of Film4) does is big, classy adaptations with name directors and name cast. And I work on really indigenous films with nobody you've heard of, that will offend your mother," he says with a laugh.
The coming months will show a lot of activity on both ends. David Mackenzie's Hallam Foe opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival on August 15, and the festival will also screen Anand Tucker's And When Did You Last See Your Father'
At Venice, Film4-related projects include Ken Loach's immigration drama It's A Free World, Asif Kapadia's Far North and Penny Woolcock's Exodus. Toronto will screen Sarah Gavron's Brick Lane, and the Loach and Tucker films.
In post, Film4 has Duane Hopkins' anticipated feature debut Better Things, Fabrice Du Welz's Thai-set thriller Vinyan, and Sharon Maguire's Incendiary starring Michelle Williams, Matthew Macfadyen and Ewan McGregor.
And there are around 75 projects in development - including new adaptations such as Abi Morgan's script for Zadie Smith's On Beauty and Simon Beaufoy adapting Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts.
Michael Winterbottom is shooting Genova in Italy and Robert Weide is finishing How To Lose Friends And Alienate People in London and New York. In pre-production now are Gerald McMorrow's futuristic Franklyn with Eva Green; Alexis Dos Santos' Unmade Beds, about foreign twentysomethings in London; and Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of How I Live Now (which will mark the first fictional feature from Oscar-winning documentary company Passion Pictures). In spring 2008, Xiaolu Guo will direct Thirst (working title), about a Chinese immigrant's erotic adventures in London.
Film4 is clearly committed to British film, yet the company has a wide definition of what that means - whether it is British talent working abroad or international film-makers working on British stories.
"Channel 4 and Film4 have always been very outward-looking," Carlton explains. "The UK is one of the biggest melting pots in the world and we're missing a trick by not representing that in film."
Making films is one matter, finding audiences is another. "The next step will be finding complementary ways of distribution," Carlton says. In a related move, Film4 is one of the partners on the MySpace MyMovieMashUp feature, Faintheart, by Vito Rocco. "It starts a dialogue between the audience and the film-makers. And when your movie opens, the audience is already there."
Carlton says the UK industry should not take Film4, or BBC Films (currently being restructured) for granted. "People need to be aware that it's tough for broadcasters. Broadcasters don't need to do film, so as an industry we have to give them a continuously good reason to invest in film."