Highgate director takes on the tough world of gangster movies

After working in the theatre, Highgate s Alexander Holt is hoping to break into the world of movies – with a gangster black comedy starring Neve Campbell and Billy Boyd. Bridget Galton reports MAKING feature films in this country is a notoriously toug

After working in the theatre, Highgate's Alexander Holt is hoping to break into the world of movies - with a gangster black comedy starring Neve Campbell and Billy Boyd. Bridget Galton reports

MAKING feature films in this country is a notoriously tough business.

But Highgate director and producer Alexander Holt has just raised more than £1million to make his first movie.

Holt's Tenth Planet Productions regularly stages work at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate.

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But the former Mountview Theatre School student decided to switch to the screen with the help of a script by his Tenth Planet partner Mark Underwood.

Matchstalk Man was originally a stage play which had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe a decade ago.

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But now the black comedy - about four men holding each other hostage following a £2million heist - has been adapted by Underwood for the screen.

As they take refuge in a warehouse, the outcasts play desperate games of lies and deceit to try to discover who has the cash.

Top actors Neve Campbell, Kelly Reilly and Billy Boyd have signed up to appear in it.

"We were lucky enough to have a good cast attached quite quickly," says Holt, who has laboured on the project for two years and will co-direct with Lance Roehrig.

"It's very tricky to get a film made without a good cast on board. It allowed us to use their names to go forward with financing and selling it to distributors.

"In principle, the actors want to do it but sometimes it changes when you get to shooting because it is subject to contracts and availability."

Holt, who hopes to shoot the film in the summer with a February 2009 release date, employed a producer and a sales agent to help raise the cash and secure deals to sell it to cinemas.

They set up an Enterprise Investment Scheme allowing donors to get tax relief on their money by buying shares in their company Quicksilver Films.

According to Holt, investors - ranging from "titled gentry to a couple of people from Muswell Hill who want to take a punt and believe in what we are doing" - have stumped up between £2,000 and £25,000 each.

Other funds have been brought in by experienced executive producer Christopher Figg, who has worked on the likes of Trainspotting and Dog Soldiers.

If the film is a success, shareholders will split the profit 50/50 with the company. But if it sinks without a trace, there are two further films - a sci-fi thriller and a romance - in the pipeline which could help recoup their cash.

"Film is a high-risk investment, which is why we have spread the risk across three films to give them a better chance of making their money back," says Holt.

The sales agent's job is to sell the film to distributors around the world and Matchstalk Men has secured guarantees of theatrical showings in the USA, Europe, Far East and Australia.

In June and July, Holt and his team will tie up the acting contracts and scout locations - with a strong possibility that much of the shoot will take place in London.

"I have always wanted to shoot this in north London. I have an idea for an opening shot from Alexandra Palace and there is a scene that would be great in Highgate Wood."

He adds: "It's been strange and terrifying, moving from something I know like theatre into film and I have had to learn very quickly about how the industry works.

"It is not a simple as getting some money and some actors and making a film. But the key to standing out and being different from a lot of the schlock out there is the script, you have to have a wonderful writer on board."

Anyone interested in investing in Quicksilver Films can call Alexander on

020-72979474 or email alex@qsfilms.com.

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