What movies made an impression on you as a young person? What were the movies that made you care about movies?
Some of my earliest memories are of watching films on TV with my parents. My mum taught me that the greats included Hepburn, Crawford and Garbo. My dad explained that the immortals were Bogart, Cagney and Karloff. Visits to my local cinema in Hammersmith, London were a weekly experience. It is said that the music you listen to when you are 13 dictates your taste for life. If we apply that to films, then I hit movie maturity during some pretty great times: The Godfather, The Sting, Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, Chinatown, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
Films that have made me care about movies include It’s a Wonderful Life (my all-time favorite film), The Big Chill, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dances with Wolves, Terminator 2 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. One day I hope to find the person who received John Hughes’ baton when he passed it on …
What’s the most recent project you’ve backed? What got you excited about it?
We have just done our first TV show: Wolf Hall for the BBC (Masterpiece in the USA) with Colin Callender of Playground and Mark Pybus of Company. The books and stage shows (currently on Broadway) are magnificent, and these six episodes—telling the story of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII—are pretty close to perfection. Truly intelligent filmmaking for adults.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken on a project?
The King’s Speech. My business partner Tim Smith and I put our houses up as collateral. I was with my children in a Force 8 Gale, crossing the Atlantic with only a maritime signal, three weeks before the start of principal photography. Four days and nights I will never forget. My relief when I saw the first assembly was huge. I told Tom Hooper then that the film would win every award going and make more money than anyone could dream possible. Ian Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin all thought that I had lost the plot, but I knew that they (the film’s real producers) had done that rare thing—they had made a film that would touch everyone who had a family.
What should a producer be preparing or thinking about as s/he’s getting ready to meet with you for the first time?
Why would I want to spend the next three or four years of my life working with you on this project? I prefer working with friendly people on quality films rather than with bullies who make commercial shows. Life’s too short to do otherwise.
-- Paul Brett is the co-owner (along with partner Tim Smith) of Prescience, an integrated media company that focuses on film and television production and financing.