Samm Haillay • Producer
by Naman Ramachandran
- Busy British producer of Newcastle-based Third Films set to make a splash on the Lido
Producer Samm Haillay, of Newcastle-based Third Films, is a busy man. He has two premieres at the 71st Venice International Film Festival (August 27 – September 6). Blood Cells, directed by Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore premieres on August 29 as part of the festival’s Biennale College strand and Duane Hopkins’ Bypass [+see also:
interview: Duane Hopkins
interview: Samm Haillay
film profile] will bow in the Orizzonti strand on September 2. Both films (watch Blood Cells here and Bypass here) are also part of the festival’s online Sala Web initiative (news) and will be available to stream worldwide, for an exclusive five-day window beginning on the date of their official presentation. The audience for each Sala Web screening is strictly capped at 800 admissions per screening, with each €4 ticket granting users access a one time only viewing of their chosen film. Haillay’s previous producing credits include the acclaimed Better Things [+see also:
film profile] and Self Made.
Cineuropa: How did Bypass come about? How did you raise the financing?
Samm Haillay: Bypass came initially from a question that Duane Hopkins, my long-term collaborator, and I asked each other: Is morality a luxury? We wanted to make a film that investigated this quandary. We see a different political landscape than the one that we grew up with. There are no jobs for life, zero hours contracts and the flexibilization of the labour market. The societal change has opened up a void – within which has grown a new class, a new identity. It is within this environment – the backdrop of austerity – that Duane wanted to set an individual emotional story, That individual is Tim (George MacKay). It is about a family, its history and its future. He wanted to take these contemporary themes and reconfigure them as a stage on which to set a completely modern thriller. A thriller with a conscience.
Financing any film is a hard task but once we had a draft we developed the film via the Torino Film Lab with backing from MEDIA and the British Film Institute (BFI). From there we were able to attach a Swedish co-producer, Plattform Produktion and a Welsh co-producer, Severn Screen. We pitched at Torino and were awarded production funds, took it to the BFI and it went from there. Bringing it all together though, from having finance interested to being closed, is a long and hard road.
How did Blood Cells come about? How did you raise the financing?
Blood Cells was an altogether much different but no less complex story. While the financing came only from one source rather than several it was still a very demanding journey. I met Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore in 2009 after their documentary Isolation had played in Edinburgh. We shared similar ideas and aesthetic concerns and knew that we wanted to work together. They came to me with a rough idea for a road movie, which went under the skin of Englishness and described the personal transformation of their main character, Adam (Barry Ward) on that journey. I teamed Joe and Luke up with my colleague Ben Young who went into an intense development process with them getting the package and the script into a position where we could think about finance. At about the same time the call for participation from the Venice Biennale College went out and we applied. Joe, Luke and Ben took the project to the development workshop and it really began to take shape. They pitched and that alongside all the developmental work the project had undergone won the commission. It has been a remarkable journey given the green light was lit around Christmas time and the film premieres only eight months later.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Venice?
Of course as with any premiere one hopes that the films will be well received and go on to have a fulsome and successful life both in festivals and in the market. But you have to ‘hold the hand’ of your work and be there with it as you share it with the world. So this also brings about the potential for many other opportunities. You can never really know what these might be in advance but one can only hope that the work present you in the light which you imagine that it might.
What do you think of Venice's Sala Web initiative?
I think the Sala Web is a great idea to allow people both industry and audience to check out the work from the festival if they have been unable to travel. It also provides the chance for folk to recommend films to their friends and colleagues if they were moved by seeing the films on the big screen. I’ll watch with interest to see how the ticket sales go...
Could you briefly describe Third Films' future slate?
We are just coming to the end of a pretty busy production cycle. As well as Bypass and Blood Cells we have two other films in post. Six Desires: DH Lawrence in Sardinia is Mark Cousins’ love letter to DH Lawrence and Light Years, the feature debut of BAFTA winning Esther May Campbell, is another road movie - this time taken on foot by an 8 year old girl looking for her missing mother. We have new films from Duane and Joe and Luke in very early stage development as well as one or two other films with other great new talent.