Auckland, New Zealand-based Matthew Metcalfe (General Film Corp) and UK-based Alan Harris (Atlantic Film Productions) have been too busy making films to join the line of producers complaining the new UK tax credit is not friendly to co-productions.
The pair produced The Ferryman and have now re-teamed for Dean Spanley, a UK-New Zealand co-production with a cast including Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill and Peter O'Toole.
Harris is no stranger to international financing arrangements - as a veteran of Grosvenor Park he dealt with the ins and outs of sale and leaseback and Section 42/48. He was born in the UK but had contacts from time spent in New Zealand, and Metcalfe crossed his path years ago. They made The Ferryman as a 65%-35% NZ-UK production, with Dean Spanley now flipping that to 75%-25% UK-NZ.
The story of Dean Spanley originated with Lord Dunsany's 1936 novel, and about eight years ago Metcalfe was introduced to it as a short-film script. Several years later he tracked down Alan Sharp, the Scottish-born writer of Rob Roy who lives in New Zealand, to work on a feature adaptation.
"I thought it was a story that needed to be told," says Metcalfe of the tale of a father and son who bond after meeting an eccentric Anglican dean who believes he was a dog in a previous life. "The most powerful stories of our time are father-son stories. Star Wars is patriarchal, when you get down to it."
They recruited hot New Zealand director Toa Fraser, of Sundance audience prize winner No. 2, to direct.
"It grew genetically, when we knew how to structure it," says Harris. "We have an obligation to utilise creative and technical elements within both countries."
Metcalfe pays testament to the quality of Sharp's script in getting the strong cast, as well as pre-selling the project to Paramount for Australia and New Zealand and to Alliance Atlantis for Canada (NZ Film is handling sales).
From his position, Metcalfe says the UK may have become more tricky for foreign producers, but that it is "a great place to work... far superior to many other countries despite all the ups and downs".
The pair plan another co-production together - an untitled drama about the "moral vacuum" and problems created by new wealth in some parts of the Middle East, also being written by Sharp. That $15m-$20m project may shoot in early 2008, with India being considered as a third country in the co-production.
Apart from that, Metcalfe has plans to adapt "a classic English novel that hasn't been brought to the screen yet" and a feature documentary on an important Middle Eastern figure.
Harris, meanwhile, is planning adaptations of Julie Myerson's Something Might Happen, a story of random violence in a UK town, and historical novel The Floating Brothel, plus small Canadian road movie Mile Zero.
The pair enjoy working together but do not have an exclusive producing partnership. "Matthew and my personalities are pretty much polar opposites and yet we don't - unlike some producing partners - say, 'This is yours, this is mine,'" Harris says. "It's more fluid than that."
At a glance: Dean Spanley
Director: Toa Fraser
Producers: Matthew Metcalfe, Alan Harris
Executive producers: Finola Dwyer, David Parfitt
Backers: Aramid Entertainment, Lipsync Productions, Screen East's Content Investment Fund, NZ Film Production Fund, NZ Film Commission
Cast: Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Northam
Shooting: six weeks in Norfolk, UK; two in NZ
Budget: about $8m
Sales: NZ Film.