A conversation with Compton Ross & Phil Hunt of Bankside Films. (Illustration by Elena Lacey)
By all means, there are easier ways to make a
living than by financing films. What draws you to film as a business opportunity?
COMPTON: As a business model, filmmaking is difficult. There is no "sure
thing” and nobody really knows how the buyers and public will react to the
finished product. Each project is a risk, but risks can always be mitigated. So
I enjoy the challenge and potential of each new project.
PHIL: I particularly like that the business side of film seems to be
like no other and is constantly evolving, which means one never really gets
bored of working with the same structures. I love that we continually have to
be so innovative.
What are the essential qualities you look for
in a producer to partner with? What flaws are you willing to overlook?
COMPTON: Generally, I look for talent, honesty/integrity, determination
and enthusiasm. It is almost impossible for a producer to excel at every stage.
Nearly all producers have a weakness or flaw; that’s no reflection on their
overall ability as a producer. A good producer knows their own strengths and
weaknesses. For me, the real issue would be the inability of a producer to
recognize that he/she has a flaw(s).
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken on a
PHIL: When John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone came across our desk
recently, we had to make an immediate decision on supplying 80% of the $10M
budget without being able to market test it. But Stephen Kelliher at Bankside
felt so strongly about it, we jumped in; we knew John was a hot property and
the market was crying out for his next film. This being his most commercial to
date, we felt it was the right one to back. A few weeks later at AFM we were
able to close a considerable number of pre-sales.
What’s the quickest way to make sure you will
NEVER back the script I’m pitching you?
COMPTON: The biggest mistake a producer can make in pitching me a script
is to tell me I am on a deadline to read it.
PHIL: "It’s a kitchen-sink drama with a first-time director, where lots
of nice people die, and needs way over $10M to do it justice. Oh, and it’s in a
foreign language. Plus, I need first-class hotel accommodations for the
duration of the shoot.”