‘Happy Clapper’ dir. Tom Marshall (2010)
A wannabe gangster living alone in a caravan gets a visit from a born again Christian.
10 Questions for Maria Forsstrum and Steve Bowden, producers at Vita Nova Films
C8: ‘Happy Clapper’ is a hugely entertaining and extremely well-made short, were you involved in the project right from the beginning?
SB: It was Tom’s concept but we were certainly involved during the script development stage.
MF: And we had already produced Tom’s previous short, ‘God & Lucy’, and wanted to continue the collaboration.
C8: How do you guys go about tracking talent at Vita Nova?
MF: We’ve produced a lot of short films for BFI’s (then UKFC) short film schemes and have developed relationships with the directors we’ve worked with. Some of the projects we have in the slate are with directors we’ve met at international film festivals. We do also get contacted a lot for co-productions and when we find interesting and exciting projects and feel we can contribute to them, we get involved.
C8: Are you creative producers? Do you work with writers on scripts or do you prefer to stick to logistics and physical production?
SB: We are Creative Producers. We work on the A – Z of development and production. That doesn’t mean we consider ourselves experts in every area, and we are certainly not precious, so we bow to the wisdom and experience of script editors and development execs for instance, but ultimately we do everything you need to do to get a film into production and that’s our focus.
C8: What is the best way for emerging writers and directors to develop a relationship with producers and production companies? Is it a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ situation?
MF: Network! Attend as many events/festivals etc that you can and meet people face to face, you can always request meetings in advance, we get a lot of emails sent with CV’s, treatments and scripts but most of the projects that we have in the slate are with people we’ve met and developed a relationships with. Also, there are a lot interesting schemes out there where you get a chance to introduce your project and talk to producers.
C8: What are the biggest challenges for you in the independent production sector?
SB: A lack of financing and the huge amount of competition to access what little there is. More so in terms of development. The ability to develop and package a project and ready it for market allows you to compete.
C8: Do you have to work twice as hard because you’re based out of London, or does having a company arm in Newcastle have its advantages?
SB: One half of Vita Nova Films is based in the capital, and we’ve always strived to make a positive out of being primarily based outside of London. In some ways I’ve always felt that it made us more self sufficient and made us look towards the continent more than London which is probably why we’ve always consider ourselves good co-producers. But, there is no doubt that London is the centre of the film business in the UK and we need to be able to access that centre on regular basis in order to do business.
C8: What advice would you give to anyone looking to enter into a career as a producer?
MF: Be prepared to work long hours and for little money, keep reminding yourself why you are/want to be in the industry, and of course watch a lot of films, both mainstream and art-house. Keep track of what happens in the film industry and network.
C8: From a producer’s perspective, what’s the essence of a good collaboration?
SB: When we feel 100% excited about the potential of the project
C8: The last 24 months have been a bit of a rocky period for the UK film industry, but things seem to be settling down now. Are you optimistic about the future of the industry?
SB: I’m optimistic about the future of Vita Nova Films. I think the UK film industry, to an extent, always feels as if it is going through a rocky period. I guess we just knuckle down, get on with it and play the hand we’ve been dealt.
C8: What does the future hold for Vita Nova Films?
SB: We have Tom Marshall’s feature debut in pre-production and we’re developing a feature version of Happy Clapper. In addition we have a feature in development with Brian Cox in the lead and we’re developing co-productions with Finland, France, Italy and Malta alongside our UK-centric projects and a Science Fiction film. It’s an ambitious slate of projects but a diversity that keeps it interesting and allows us to turn up to the office everyday and get excited about the future.