Miss Julie – the complex nature of film finance

Castle Coole 1, FermanaghMiss Julie written in 1888, Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s theatrical masterpiece has already been adapted numerous times for stage and screen, the earliest film version in 1912. Set on Midsummer’s Eve in a large country house, Miss Julie details a battle of both sexes and classes, revolving around the eponymous daughter (Jessica Chastain) of a wealthy landowner, and her flirtation with and seduction of her father’s valet (Colin Farrell), a power struggle that has tragic consequences. The house’s cook and valet’s lover (Samantha Morton) observes the tryst as it unfolds

The latest version is currently filming in Castle Coole, directed by Norwegian Liv Ullmann who made her first film in 1957 and went on to make 10 movies with Ingmar Bergman.

One of the most interesting aspects for me is the diverse nature of funding a movie.

Speaking to Screen Daily producers, Teun Hilte and Oliver Dungey of London-based The Apocalypse Films Company give an interesting insight to how Miss Julie came to shoot for 8 week entirely at the neo-classical mansion of Castle Coole, in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Seeking out a female director, once Ullmann committed to directing, Hilte and Dungey approached Norwegian producer Synnove Horsdal of Maipo Film to partner with them. Very quickly the Norwegian Film Institute came on board with “substantial support”, says Horsdal, amounting to almost 25% of the film’s $6m budget. “It has been a long time since Liv Ullmann has done a film and a lot of people felt the Norwegian public owed her another.” (Her last film as director was Faithless in 2000.)

Hilte said, “One of the few conditions [we had] was it had to be in the English language” while Ullmann’s film retains the original period, Northern Ireland was chosen because there was a similar socio-political situation at that time, Liv was happy to transpose the story. While Dungey said about Castle Coole “its upstairs rooms are brilliantly intact”, it brought production value we couldn’t recreate.

The remainder of the budget came from a variety of sources, including Northern Ireland Screen, the Irish Film Board and Windmill Lane Post-Production. Another third was raised via gap funding, from Altaris and Media House Capital in Canada. Former Wild Bunch acquisitions exec Rita Dagher, now running Paris-based production company Senorita Films, partnered as a French co-producer, providing some finance.

While the plan had been to do all post-production in London to maximise the UK tax credit, when Irish co-producers Aoife O’Sullivan and Tristan Orpen Lynch of Subotica Films joined the project, post was moved to Dublin, resulting in Section 481 tax relief. “It is not only a Norway-UK-France co-production but it’s a Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland cross-border co-production which is fairly unique because they often compete for projects,” Hilte notes. “And because of Colin Farrell’s Irish heritage, Tristan was able to bring the Irish Film Board on board with a modest amount of money, but exactly what we needed to close the finance.”

Hilte notes the singular location also benefited the schedule and actors. “They spent two weeks rehearsing here,” That was incredibly important to Liv, to have that time to prepare them, to get to know them, and for them to get to know her”. From what we’ve seen in the rushes, that’s really paid off. It allows them to focus completely on their performance

At time of writing, the only distribution deal in place is with Nordisk Film in Scandinavia. Wild Bunch is handling international sales and is introducing the film to buyers in Cannes.

Financers: Norwegian Film Institute, Northern Ireland Screen, Irish Film Board, Windmill Lane Post-Production, Altaris, Media House Capital

Producers: Teun Hilte, Oliver Dungey, Synnove Horsdal

Co-producers: Rita Dagher, Senorita Films (France); Aoife O’Sullivan, Tristan Orpen Lynch, Subotica Films (Ireland)

Image by DoChara.com

Categories: Film and TV

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