"We closed the financing two months after the shooting!"
by Naman Ramachandran
- Six years in getting off the ground, with funding hard to find and a lead actor who had become a star: The multiple adventures of a film project and its eclectic producer
From being a 16-year-old apprentice at Samuelsons to being a focus puller to producing the latest Daniel Craig film, it’s been an incredible journey for Damon Bryant. In between he produced a David Cronenberg film (eXistenZ), a film about James Joyce’s muse (Nora) starring Ewan McGregor; Max, about Hitler’s relationship with his art dealer; and Owning Mahowny, starring John Hurt, Minnie Driver and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The ever-busy Bryant also found time to start a company – Natural Nylon – with Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Sean Pertwee and Jonny Lee Miller and had stints with ICM and Arclight Films.
Cineuropa: What attracted you to Flashbacks of a Fool?
Damon Bryant: I first read the project almost six years ago and immediately fell in love with it. Baillie (Walsh, the director) had written it for Daniel (Craig) and we all ran around trying to find money. It took a while and Bond helped, of course. Baillie’s work as a video director is world famous and it was his story that inspired his writing and I think it really comes out in the film. His writing is inspiring.
What was the budget and how did you put together the financing?
The budget was $11.5 million, and it started with a very brave man, Robert Mitchell (Managing Director of Disney UK), who came on board very early with a big lump of cash and a whole lot of different funds out of various parts of the world. My producing partner Lene Bausager and I had many sleepless nights, even losing half the budget in Cannes five days before filming started in Cape Town.
Lene and I met all sorts of people that day and by tea time we had nearly got it all back, only losing it again two weeks into production. The film was looking fantastic and that kept us going with Robert from Disney keeping the faith and putting his balls on the line. We then had a great German company and a great bank; we finished the film and closed the financing two months after we had finished shooting! Unbelievable.
How was it like, working with Daniel Craig and Baillie Walsh?
Working with Daniel and Baillie was fun and scary at the same time. You are all friends but then it gets serious. I have known them both for about 12 years so know most things about them. I admire them both, they both do jobs that I could never do. Working with Lene was the best – she is brilliant.
What challenges did you face during the production?
Apart from the financial ones, taking the risk of shooting LA and an English seaside town in South Africa, now that was a challenge. We wanted the film to have that heightened reality, you know how you remember things – they’re never as beautiful when you go back so we wanted to have that magic. It really works and the film looks incredible. We had John Mathieson on camera and it doesn’t get much better.
From Cronenberg to James Joyce to Hitler to Flashbacks – it’s been quite a journey for you as a producer.
I have made a completely eclectic bunch of films. I started with a group of young actors and we called ourselves Natural Nylon – my wife came up with the name. We were young and naive and had great ideals. We achieved some, but it was too hard competing with Hollywood who wanted the Brit stars on their turf. We made a few good movies and working with Cronenberg was a joy. It couldn’t last and it didn’t.
Since then I have been a financier, sales agent, marketing director, talent agent and independent producer. I started as a trainee at Samuelsons when I was 16, moved around and still do. That’s what I love about the film industry. You never have a dull day.
Next is all about India and Steve Barron (Rat, Mike Bassett: England Manager). I hope we will have his new film up and shooting before July. It’s called Prakash and stars Irfan Khan (The Warrior, A Mighty Heart [+see also:
film profile]). I loved The Warrior and he just gets better and better. I have also fallen in love with India. It is an amazing country. Steve is a great director who I love. His body of work is really exciting and we have something special. It looks like it will be the first Indo-UK co-production. How exciting!