Profile: UK Financier Of 'The King's Speech'

In America, The Weinstein Co has received most of the PR bonanza for backing Oscar-touted The King’s Speech. But it’s really a British film financing company aptly named Prescience that first recognized the film’s potential. With an office in Beaconsfield, a quaint market town 20 miles outside of London, the Prescience only set up in business 5 years ago — which underscores how far this boutique film financier has come. Prescience has backed 25 films to date with a total production value of $400 million. It’s run by managing director Tim Smith and his co-director Paul Brett who’ve both worked in the movie industry for more than 20 years at British outposts of Hollywood studios. Smith used to work for Fox, while Brett has worked for Miramax, Pathé and Paramount. Both come from a marketing background, which is what they say they’re bringing to the party. Brett tells me: “In Hollywood a film gets greenlit when they have a release date and know how it’s going to be marketed. Here a film is greenlit when the money’s available.”

The Weinstein Company and Prescience were the first financiers in after UK distributor Momentum. Iain Canning, co-producer of The King’s Speech, had decided to keep the project independent, turning down an offer from Fox Searchlight to fully fund the movie. Instead, The Weinstein Company took North American rights plus a clutch of several other territories including France and Germany. Prescience’s job was to fund the production, lending against pre-sales, tax money, and territories which sales agent FilmNation had yet to sell. The UK Film Council and UK post-production company Molinare rounded out the $12 million budget with some equity. But co-producer Gareth Unwin tells me: “Prescience were a key element of our finance plan. Without their commitment, the film would not have happened.”

So, what was it about The King’s Speech that made Prescience want to get on board a period English drama? “It was easily the best script I’ve ever read,” says Brett, who reads between 300 to 400 screenplays a year, about David Seidler’s original screenplay.

Now Prescience has aligned itself with The King’s Speech filmmakers again on another project written by Seidler. (more…)

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