Death At A Funeral was written as a spec script by London-based writer Dean Craig to direct himself for around $200,000 (£100,000). But a friend, US writer-director-producer Laurence Malkin had bigger ambitions.
"He said, 'No, we'll do it for $20m,'" Craig remembers. "I said, 'Are you nuts' It's a little film set in a house with an ensemble cast.'"
The project may at first glance seem like a quintessentially British, quirky, dark comedy of manners. But its producers are North American and finance came from the US and Germany.
Malkin brought on creative producer Share Stallings and together they developed the script, an ensemble comedy about a funeral where uncomfortable family secrets are revealed. After that, Stallings brought on Frank Oz to direct. Sidney Kimmel Entertainment subsequently came on board to finance the project in summer 2005 (backing also came from VIP Medienfonds) and the film shot in 2006. Craig remained the sole writer on the project, with Oz retaining him on set for rewrites.
Having a US financier with a ready source of funds was a relief, Craig says. "We didn't have to scramble for money from all sorts of sources. That helps the whole creative process," he explains. "There were not too many people sticking their oar in." Having an experienced director in the form of Oz also steadied the ship. In development and casting, says Craig, "Frank responded only to one thing - what made him laugh. He didn't worry about anything else."
Funeral is on release in the US where it has grossed $8m after eight weeks for MGM. It also won the audience prize at Locarno this year. Verve will release in the UK in November and Sidney Kimmel is handling international sales.
Positive buzz about the script helped Craig secure US representation from UTA and he is adapting The Affected Provincial's Companion by Lord Whimsy for Johnny Depp's Infinitum Nihil and Graham King's Initial Entertainment Group.
Craig is developing the script with comedy directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me And Dupree; Arrested Development). He describes it as a character-driven comedy about a modern dandy in South Philadelphia.
He is also working on Asshole for producer Paula Weinstein (Blood Diamond) and Warner Bros. It is another character-driven comedy about a ruthless businessman who strives to be nice.
Malkin and Stallings are again on board as producers for Craig's directorial debut, which has the working title Lovesick. He describes it as an "ensemble British film, with characters trying to deal with relationships at a wedding", and says it is at the script stage. Craig adds: "If the finance comes from the UK, then that's great. I'd love it to be a proper UK film."