Considering that the average production budget of a major studio film in 2007 was $106 million [source: MPAA] (approximately £65 million) and although we know that Edward Burns managed to produce his Newlyweds for $120K (just under £74K) including editing and post production costs, how is it possible to create a film for only £15000?
Well, that’s just what The Minister of Chance team is doing right now in Cheshire, UK. Already with a cult following on the internet, Radio Static is the brave independent firm which is taking podcast to film. The Minister of Chance podcast first series received nominations from the BBC and USA Parsec Awards and hails an internationally acclaimed cast including Jenny Agutter OBE, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Tamsin Greig, Jed Brophy and Philip Glenister to name but a few.
Reviews of the original series were glowing:
“ …startling… a joy to listen to… world-class… magic… superb… haunting… intricate… sucks you in and holds you… so poetic that you’re happy to go along with every twist… fascinating… a gorgeous audio experience.”
Greg Jameson, Entertainment Focus
“…fabulous… truly wonderful… the cast is absolutely phenomenal… the writing excellent… outstanding.”
“…transports you to another world… eclipses nearly every audio adventure I’ve listened to… flawless… this future classic.”
Paul Gee, Who News Extra
“… superb… full of depth and flavour… sublime.”
Sam Fleming, Singularity
The Writer and Director Dan Freeman, together with the Executive Producer Clare Eden, have, through the podcasts, taken the listeners back into the realm of imagination, where weekly story telling on the wireless was an essential part of life. Except that now the wireless is the internet and not a radio, but the realm of the imagination still reigns supreme in human beings and largely due to the success of the crowd-funded podcast project, a film is currently underway in the UK. A film which is working to a budget of £15000. OK. Perhaps it’s time to ‘fess-up’ and say it’s not quite a full feature film – more like a very short film of the prologue of the series which has been rewritten to accommodate a more cinematic and visually powerful style. But it’s still a film; just not quite of blockbuster proportions one might have originally hoped.
Austerity measures might be in place when compared to Hollywood’s funds but there is no skimping on talent. Top quality writing attracts top quality talent which, in turn, gives award winning performances. What is really refreshing is to hear from the Executive Producer how the ‘talent’ are hardworking, fun and professional. Tim McInnery, for instance, once a favourite as Lord Percy or Captain Darling in the Black Adder Series, a well established actor of stage, screen and radio, was described as “everything we hoped he’d be – fantastic in the role of the King, and a total gent to work with.” Mark Lewis played the king in the original series and was going to be in the film, but an offer from Ridley Scott meant he wasn’t available. Tim McInnery however, has stepped into the part with impressive results.
A quick peek at the whole cast list is evidence enough of several combined lifetimes of excellence from both young and seasoned actors alike. This short film, also featuring the Cheshire landscape as well as promoting and using local talent, for a country coming out of recession, is an example of ingenuity, entrepreneurship and a refusal to wait for the ‘big boys’ to make something beautiful.
More and more independent production companies are taking it upon themselves to create and develop art, music and literature. Crowd-funding platforms are commonplace and all one needs to do it seems – is believe. This £15000 has been raised through crowd-funding and is a perfect example of how the process of creation has changed. Interestingly they are making the film and still continuing with their campaign until 10th November, when their limited edition purchases will no longer be available.
What is the Ministry of Chance about? Well, without offering any kind of spoiler the prologue called The Pointed Hand gives this description as a starter to the series…
“A strange new world… Ambassador Durian of Sezuan (Paul McGann) is dispatched to the primitive island nation of Tanto. However, his offers of friendship to the belligerent King (Mark Lewis) fall on deaf ears, and things take a turn for the very, very sinister.”
For me, the presence of the smoother-than-chocolate Paul McGann is enough to stimulate interest (of course, for his sublime acting talents), but essentially, The Minister of Chance is a science fiction fantasy-adventure series which will amuse, beguile and titillate the eardrums, stimulate that grey matter of yours and I warn you, can be quite, quite addictive. The film promises to feed the eyes as well as a sense of adventure. There will even be some special effects and I understand that Paul McGann’s rocket ship landed in Chester’s Roman amphitheatre for the film!
It’s fun and the podcast series definitely harked back and offered a nod to old style radio dramas but the excitement in this new film production is many layered. Firstly that it is crowd-funded; public opinion does count, secondly that it is supported by a hugely gifted cast and crew, thirdly that is comes from the hand of the immensely talented Dan Freeman and fourthly that it is unafraid to create and present as a development from an already highly successful independent project.
The original podcast series is free to download through their website http://www.ministerofchance.com or even though ITunes. Why not get up to speed while you wait for the movie to be finished? You never know – you might even get a chance to be part of its film campaign and on a such a small budget, I suspect they might still need you!
Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Image: The Minister of Chance – Rocket ship