The Director Who Knew Too Much
11 September 2004
On paper, as a first time feature film director, I really couldn’t expect things to be any better than they already appear to be, as I near the halfway point of my thirty sixth year.
I am a commissioned screen writer, director and producer; I stand to make millions from the quality films I’m producing; and I live with my beautiful finance in an Amsterdam canal apartment with a corner balcony.
Virtually everybody I have ever met has already been to stay at least once, such is the level of expansive relaxation [and/or hedonistic pleasure] derived by all who pass through our heady home in the Dam.
Unspeakably Wicked Pictures
Unspeakably Wicked Pictures [UWP], the limited company my fellow director Olivier and I founded in 2002, successfully launched our first feature film, THE GOOD COP, at the Cannes Market last May.
After driving from Amsterdam to Cannes to deliver the 35 mm print in time for our first screening, it was cancelled because some Anarchists seized the cinema we were due to screen in, on the first day of the market.
Being about as independent as they come, the irony certainly wasn’t lost on UWP, when we found out they were protesting the corporatism that is eating away at the heart of the festival, which has all but sold its soul to corporate interests, at the expense of truly independent cinema.
A Cannes Trip To Rule Them All
We based our sales operations in a yacht that was moored in the harbour, just a few minutes walk from the Palais Du Festival and the bustling market, which we shared with three other companies.
This actually worked out much cheaper than the costs we would have incurred by setting up our office in the market. It was also a very comfortable venue to meet with producers and distributors and to host networking events and drinks parties.
Despite the inevitable cancellation of the film’s international bow, we still had the busiest screening of the second week of the market, after our confident marketing campaign attracted all the key industry buyers, including Harvey Weinstein at Miramax.
Harvey requested a private screening of the film for his company in London, after they missed it in the market, where we were turning buyers away at the door for the entire duration of the packed screening.
This occurred the morning after our attendance at an A list party in the swanky and ridiculously expensive Hotel Du Cap, a few miles up the coast from Cannes.
Producers Who Sell
We weren’t exactly invited to the party but suffice to say that we were told that we absolutely had to be there by a US producer who said she was on the guest list, so we decided to turn up and see what transpired.
As we walked through the doors of the hotel into the lobby, we were immediately greeted by a concierge, who asked if we were there to check-in as guests.
Olivier then explained that we were there for the party and the concierge escorted us to an empty lounge, where we were served drinks that cost an average of £25 each, none of which we had to paid for. Had it been otherwise, we would have left as soon as we saw the prices on the menu.
Nevertheless, a couple of hours later, the lounge was packed full of big-hitting producers and movie stars, including Harvey Weinstein, Jack Black, Uma Thurman, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, to name but a few.
I bumped into Jack Black on my way to the toilets and we ended up having a brief conversation about my screenplay for NEFARIOUS. It turned out that the script his agent told me he received was never delivered to him, when I sent it a couple of years ago.
He obviously wasn’t very happy it was kept from him. However, he was seriously pissed off when I told him that the film is about two lovable dope-dealers who dream of owning a coffeeshop in Amsterdam and that Dougie Henshall is now attached to play the role I was offering him.
As we shook hands and wished each other well, I turned to walk in the direction of the bathroom, when I noticed that Uma Thurman was staring right at me across the crowded room. She honestly looked like her face was carved out of porcelain.
I smiled politely and wondered whether I could offer her any of the female leads in any of our films. However, by the time I got back from draining my bladder, Quentin Tarantino arrived on the scene and my fleeting chance to pitch a film to Uma was lost because they both disappeared soon afterwards.
Harvey Weinstein Advises An Early Night
Near the end of the night, Harvey, who spent most of the party avoiding high class call girls, who shamelessly threw themselves at him, walked directly over to where we were standing in the hotel garden.
He shook me by the hand, never having met me before and already knowing who I was. He then predicted that we were going to have another busy time in the market the following day, so we shouldn’t stay up too late. With that, he headed back to his hotel in a private limo on his own.
Sure enough, Harvey’s office called just before 10 am the next morning to book a meeting later that day, at which we agreed a date for the London screening of the film.
They didn’t end up buying the US rights but the execs at Miramax, Fine Line and other major companies told us that they could not remember a more impressive international launch for a Danish film.
Everybody suddenly wanted to work with us because there were so many big-hitters who were buzzing about THE GOOD COP and the hot new independent production and sales company that launched it in such style.
Little did they know that right up until the very moment we arrived in Cannes and delivered the film print, Olivier hadn’t yet raised the bridging loan we needed to pay for everything. Such is life in this crazy business.
A #1 Hit Danish Action Comedy
THE GOOD COP, which I also co-produced, was number one at the domestic box-office whilst we were in Cannes, having generated more that £1 M in gross returns during its first ten days on release in two hundred Danish cinemas.
We achieved these undeniably impressive results largely because the film stars my great friend and Danish acting legend, Kim Bodnia, alongside rising young star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and a strong ensemble cast.
We had already grossed more than the £900,000 budget and £120,000 Prints & Advertising costs by the time the film was launched in Cannes.
I also closed a low six figure deal with a German distributor, which easily covered the costs of the international launch, shortly after our return from the Croisette.
Almost overnight, our little company with no staff or payroll, became one of the hottest independent outfits in Europe, with two slates of films on which Olivier and I have been acting as financing producers.
Two Bankable Slates
The first is called The Bodnia Slate, comprising of four films starring Kim, including THE GOOD COP [director, Lasse Spang Olsen] and my feature debut as director, NEFARIOUS, which will also be Kim’s first English language film.
His second English language role will be playing the lead in critically-acclaimed director Mark Hanlon‘s hard-hitting psychological thriller, MISSING LIMB, which we are also producing.
The last film on The Bodnia Slate will be my second feature as director, THE WORLD’S MAYOR, in which Kim will star as a puppet politician who defies his globalist masters, by exposing their corruption to billions on live TV.
Our second slate of films contains a screwball comedy about the fashion industry, starring Ben Stiller; a zany comedy set in a theme park, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman; a low budget film about dog fighting, which is set to star Rhys Ifans; and a biopic called BOBBY about the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
A Potential Oscar Winner
Paul Newman, who is probably my favourite American actor, is already attached to play one of the ensemble cast in BOBBY. I would have jumped at the chance of producing it for that reason alone but when I read the script my gut told me the film is going to be a massive hit.
He rang to personally credit me with “pulling the film out of three years of development hell”, when he had almost given up hope that he would ever secure the finance to make it.
Such was my passion and enthusiasm for the brilliant script he has written, which I have predicted will be nominated for Oscars and gross in excess of $120 M worldwide.
We have recently placed the project with the US lawyer of a hard-working sales agent, who could easily raise the entire budget by pre-selling international distribution rights.
If Emilio heeds my gentle criticism that the script is 20-25 minutes too long, I have no doubt the film will win Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film, provided it is realized to its maximum potential.
An Award-Winning Ensemble Cast
The effortlessly charismatic Kim Bodnia is set to appear in NEFARIOUS alongside Oscar-winner, Christopher Walken, Joanne Whalley and Douglas Henshall [another loyal friend, who has been Exec Producing the film since 2000].
Not a bad cast for first time feature director, to say the least.
Nobody Refuses An Offer They Can’t Refuse
As producer, writer, director of my first feature film, it was essential from the outset that we landed such a bankable cast of great actors for NEFARIOUS, without which we would never have attracted the investment that we have.
Several weeks ago, we managed to raise an irrevocable Letter of Credit from a reputable Swiss Bank, to the tune of the $9.5 M budget for the film. According to Olivier, who used to work as an investment banker in the City of London, an irrevocable LOC is just as good as cash in the hands of a banker.
This investment has been provided by a well-known Austrian film investor, who just to happens to be married to Sybil Danning, who is set to play a minor supporting role, as a condition of the investment. However, the rest of our deal with him is pretty much industry standard.
So why am I feeling so stressed out that I can hardly sleep, when everything appears to be going according to plan?
The answer to that question is so complex I don’t really know where to begin. Especially when what happened this afternoon might well have changed everything and not for the better.
Olivier, who has some major contacts in the music industry, has been trying for months to persuade a very wealthy and powerful Dutchman [who must remain nameless] to bank-roll our entire slate for 50% of the net returns.
He asked if I could meet him at his home in Amsterdam today, about forty minutes bike ride from our apartment in the Old West. Olivier couldn’t make it, so I pedaled round to his home, expecting that I would be pitching each film on our slate when I arrived.
However, within a minute of entering the large three story house, which seemed to be entirely decked out in designer and antique furnishings, I was told that there was no need to pitch any of our projects today.
He then took my coat, hung it up on an antique coat stand and gestured that I should sit down on an expensive sofa in the comfortable and opulent living room.
It turned out he had insisted on the meeting going ahead, knowing Olivier couldn’t be there, so that he could talk to me privately.
The ‘Godfather’ Offer
Initially, he said that I have attracted the interest of some very important people during the course of my life; that I’ve been tracked since I was a boy, by people who could very easily lend their considerable weight to all my projects; for the purposes of guaranteeing that my life is an unbridled success in every respect.
He continued, in what seemed like the full-flow of a true controller:
“According to what I’ve heard, if you can keep your weight down, you could easily attain Bono-like status as a film director. In other words, people I trust are predicting you could soon have fame, riches, success and women beyond your wildest dreams. Every film you ever make could be a hit with the critics, win awards and gross millions at the box office.”
To which I replied:
“So why am I sensing there is a “but” coming?”
My instinct certainly wasn’t wrong. It never is, no matter how much I want it to be. Then came the punchline:
“But for that to happen, I need to explain that there are 111-114 people who control who is and who isn’t successful; and for you to acquire that kind of status, you have to have the support of at least one of those people. Well, I’m one of them, so I need you to answer this simple question.”
He paused and looked over at a heavy closed oak door on the other side of the room, before asking me:
“If a door was opened for you to enter a room and you were asked not to say anything to anybody about what you saw inside that room, what would you say?”
I know many people who would not have elected to make the choice I did and it certainly has the potential to shatter the progress we have made this year to 9.5 million pieces, but I nevertheless responded thus:
“I’d say I should get my coat because there is no way that I would ever agree to do anything like that, for any reason whatsoever.”
The stunned expression on his face revealed this wasn’t the reaction he expected and that is was almost certainly the first he has had such a ‘Godfather’ offer rejected, without the slightest glimmer of hesitation.
The Wheel of Fortune Spins
With that, I thanked him for his time, grabbed my coat and rode my bike back through the city, knowing that I had just refused an offer I was supposed to accept; and from a member of the Bilderberg Group, no less, which I originally read about in Jon Ronson’s book, The Secret Rulers of the World, in 1998.
I couldn’t stop thinking about what my very own Bilderberg insider told me, just three days after 9/11 in 2001. Was that what was being alluded to today?
That I can have anything I want, as long as I keep my mouth shut about the 9/11 evidence she opened the door to, which leads directly to the controllers of Bilderberg?
On my way home, my mind was racing, so I stopped off at the Tweede Kamer for a double espresso and a big fat one, to collect my thoughts.