In little over two years the duo, along with founding partners Kate Buckley and Josh Varney, have established their company as one of the British film industry’s most dynamic. In the pipelines is One Night, Six Parties with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner’s Working Title, who remain by some measure the benchmark in the UK and beyond. Music video director Emil Nava, who has worked with the liked of superstar DJ Calvin Harris and Ed Sheeran, is set to make his directorial debut.
Also in the works is a reunion with director Eran Creevy called The Line, which Stuart Ford’s IM Global is financing. 42, Creevy and IM Global previously worked together on Autobahn, which Relativity releases domestically in October. Pugh and Aitken produced both of Creevy’s previous films, Shifty and Welcome to the Punch.
Sci-fi project Outside The Wire, to be directed by Rowan Athale, and World Breaker, written by Phil Gawthorne and to be directed by Will Eubank (The Signal) are also in development.
In April last year, the company made a strategic pivot towards TV, inking an exclusive multi-year development and distribution partnership with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and hiring BBC drama exec producer Eleanor Moran to run its TV division. The company just received a greenlight from the BBC for Watership Down, based on Richard Adams’ classic novel about a group of rabbits in south-central England. The 4 x 1 hour series promises to be the first animated TV drama mini-series ever made for British TV. Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diary) is adapting the book with Noam Murro (300: Rise of an Empire) directing.
42 are also teaming with Riz Ahmed (Star Wars; Rogue One) on Tin Soldier, a conspiracy thriller set up at the BBC about a homeless veteran with Jon Croker (The Woman In Black) writing. Pugh and Aitken have also optioned M J Arlidge’s bestselling crime novel Eeny Meeny to be turned into a TV series.
In addition to Autobahn, 42 has an impressive four other films either completed or in advance stages of production, including Monsters: Dark Continent, which Radius:TWC is handling domestically; The Other Side of the Door, which 20th Century Fox is releasing; Revolt, which Voltage is selling and The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which IM Global is selling at Cannes.
In addition to the production activities, the company has taken inspiration from the likes of Anonymous Content and 360 with its management arm, run by former Independent agents Josh Varney and Kate Buckley. Among the splashier deals they have concluded recently are Ruari Robinson’s headline-making concept video for sci-fi project The Leviathan that earned him deals with Fox and Simon Kinberg to produce and Neil Blomkampf to exec produce; and Jay Basu’s deal to write Metal Gear Solid for Sony.
“We’re a fully integrated company,” Rory Aitken tells Deadline. “It’s an incredibly good creative hub. There is so much going on.”
“The management side of things feeds the film and TV production,” adds Ben Pugh. “We’re able to share with each other all the knowledge and information that comes our way.”
And while there is a natural desire to cross-pollinate production projects with management clients, the overriding strategy is to achieve the best result independent of any conflict of interest.
“Look at the case of Ruari, for example,” says Pugh. “The best thing for him was to get a studio deal with Fox. We don’t necessarily have to be involved in the production of it.”
It says something about Pugh and Aitken, both still only in their 30’s, that they have been able to hold their own with some of the most formidable figures in the film biz, whether Eric Fellner, Joel Silver or Ridley Scott (the veteran director was so impressed by what they were doing he “presented” Welcome to the Punch and took an exec producer credit.)
“They just ask the right questions,” says Aitken of their illustrious collaborators. “They’re direct, simple, tough. All that matters to them is making the best film possible.”
As for the future, they’re keeping their feet firmly on the ground. “It’s not really a question of scale but more of quality,” says Pugh about their strategy moving forward. “We want to do everything better. We want work with the best talent and find the best material.”