If gamblers are ready to start handicapping next year's Bafta race, Julian Jarrold's Brideshead Revisited would be a safe bet.
The producers at Ecosse Films, of course, would cringe at such early awards talk - Ecosse is one of those production companies that likes to let its work speak for itself. Ecosse, founded in 1988 to work on both film and TV, has already had awards glory with 1997's Oscar-nominated and Bafta-winning Mrs Brown.
At the moment, Ecosse has The Water Horse: The Legend Of The Deep coming to UK cinemas on February 8 via Sony's 450-print release; Brideshead's UK release will follow later in 2008 via BVI.
'In the last year we've done $100m worth of production, which isn't bad a for a small company in Parsons Green,' says Ecosse founder Douglas Rae. 'I hope that shows our scale of ambition.'
Now there is another high-profile adaptation in the works: Olivia Hetreed, the acclaimed writer of the screenplay for Girl With A Pearl Earring, has penned a fresh version of Wuthering Heights, with John Maybury recently coming on board to direct (see right).
'It is the most passionate story in English or American fiction. It's a big challenge to pull that off,' says Robert Bernstein, Ecosse's company director and executive producer.
'Another thing that makes it interesting is that in the book Heathcliff is described as the son of gypsy from the local docks, and the whole notion of being an outsider, virtually an immigrant, who can never fit in - that makes it feel modern,' Bernstein notes. The film does not shoot until September and has yet to start casting, but getting the right young stars will be crucial.
That was also the case with Brideshead, which stars Hayley Atwell, Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw in a new screenplay by Jeremy Brock. 'Being able to have three British up-and-coming actors was the biggest achievement,' Bernstein says. 'The higher the budget, the more name recognition the financiers would like.' Ecosse (and Free Range's Kevin Loader) led the project with BBC Films, 2 entertain, the UK Film Council, Miramax (which has US rights), and HanWay handling sales.
Another recent period work was young Jane Austen story Becoming Jane, which had a lukewarm reception at the UK box office but made more than $18m in the US. 'We're very proud of the fact that we've made inroads into America,' Bernstein says.
The Water Horse, a classic family story with ties to the Loch Ness monster, has also done well across the pond, taking more than $39m as of January 31. 'It's a universal story, it's a very poignant rites of passage (tale). It's a classical well-made film and people really responded to that,' Bernstein says.
While the film was made with US bigwigs such as Walden Media, Beacon Pictures and Revolution Studios, it was an Ecosse-generated project in development for a decade.
Jay Russell's film shot mostly in New Zealand (where Weta crafted the eponymous creature), with a small portion of the shoot in Scotland. The UK cast is led by Ben Chaplin, Brian Cox and Emily Watson.
The company does not only work with the corset crowd. Ecosse produced the thriller Wilderness and is now readying another smaller film to shoot in spring 2008 - Karl Golden's Pelican Blood. EM Media is also on board the project, a contemporary love story set in the world of birdwatching.
On all the film projects, Bernstein works closely with Ecosse managing director Rae, who also spearheads the company's TV projects (including recent BBC hit Mistresses). 'We have very similar sensibilities, which is why it works,' Bernstein says.
Also to shoot in late summer 2008 is Geoff Sax's Black Death, a medieval chiller with a twist, written by Dario Poloni. HanWay is selling that film, which will shoot in Germany.
Ecosse is building up to two or three feature film productions per year. Another potential 2008 shoot that Rae is spearheading is an adaptation of Forever Today. Hetreed is working on the script, based on Deborah Wearing's memoir of her husband's amnesia, and Adrian Shergold will direct. 'It's about unconditional love,' Rae says. 'It's an extraordinary story that's really captured the imagination of people.'
Rae adds: 'What we try to do as a company is have a very open taste for stories. We don't want to be known just for making wonderful period pieces. We go more for eclectic storytelling.'