“There are people in the industry who want their daughter to have a role in a film and put in some cash to get a credit as an executive producer.
“Then there are people like us who put the various bits of the production together, which can be quite complicated – involving the whole financial structure, advertising, how to structure the project and sell it forward. I think we’re a bit more deserving of the title of executive producer.”
So says Sean O’Kelly, partner in Brighton-based Stealth Media Group, which is displaying the range of their work with two productions at this year’s Chichester International Film Festival.
The glossy period drama Belle Du Seigneur (15, 100 mins, showing Saturday, August 18, at 6.15pm, and Sunday, August 19, at 4.45pm) will receive its UK premiere. Based on Albert Cohen’s epic novel it tells the story of an ardent love affair between a high-ranking Jewish official, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and the wife of one of his employees, played by Natalia Vodianova, on the eve of the Second World War.
At the other end of the scale is Terry (18, 81 mins, showing on Thursday, August 23, at 6.15pm), a faux documentary about a low-life drug dealer, made for £500 in cash and £10,000 in equipment and deliverables by its two lead actors, which has made £50,000 to date. Michael L Cowan, who founded Stealth Media with O’Kelly and Jason Piette, will lead a masterclass in ultra-low-budget film-making after the screening.
The visit follows the production company’s preview screening and Q&A of another of its big successes, Margin Call, starring Kevin Spacey, at last year’s Festival.
“Chichester is a great platform,” says O’Kelly. “It’s exactly the type of audience a distributor would want to appeal to. The industry is getting increasingly difficult – a lot of films miss the mark and fall into the DVD and television world – which makes it hard to recoup the type of budgets the films are being made for."
Stealth Media is split into Stealth Premiere, which produces, finances and sells high-end films with budgets of £5-million plus, and Stealth Indie, where they work with up-and-coming talent.
O’Kelly came into the industry from a creative background, having studied at film school and graduated as a director before slowly moving into production. Cowan originally came from the games industry. Between them they have helped create almost 80 films, including international hits The Merchant Of Venice, starring Al Pacino, cult horror movie Wolf Creek, internet crowd-sourced Nazis on the moon picture Iron Sky, and Lord Of War starring Nicolas Cage. The company has another Cage film on the way, Marble City, which also stars Oscar-winner Mickey Rourke.
“Our stage of involvement varies from film to film,” says O’Kelly. “A lot of producers come to us because they know we are a reliable set of hands.
“With Belle Du Seigneur we were brought in by the producer when they had nearly closed the finance. The director [Glenio Bonder] had a relationship with Cohen’s widow, having made a documentary about her former husband. Many people had tried to buy the rights for the book from her in the past but she didn’t want to sign them over. “We did enough pre-sales to secure the financing and took it to various festivals. We are in discussions at the moment for a theatrical release in the UK with a notable arthouse distributor.”
The ins and outs of film production will be discussed at the two Stealth Media screenings, although for O’Kelly there are a few things that need to be in place to make him want to work on a film.
“We look for films with a strong script, good cast and solid director,” he says. “They are all essential if you’re looking to create a theatrical film. But you really don’t know what you have until it hits the cutting room.”