|Formerly||Channel Four Films|
|Type||Film production company|
|Headquarters||London, England, United Kingdom|
Number of locations
|Parent||Channel Four Television Corporation|
Film4 Productions is a British film production company owned by Channel Four Television Corporation. The company has been responsible for backing many films made in the United Kingdom. The company's first production was Walter, directed by Stephen Frears, which was released in 1982. It is especially known for its gritty, kitchen sink-style films and period drama.
In 1981, producer David Rose left the BBC for Channel 4 where he was appointed the Commissioning Editor for Fiction by Jeremy Isaacs, the channel's founding Chief Executive but became mostly identified with the Film on Four strand. With an initial overall budget of £6 million a year, Channel Four Films was to invest in twenty films annually for Film on Four. The first film backed was Neil Jordan's debut film Angel (1982). The first film shown as part of Film on Four was Stephen Frears's Walter which was screened on 2 November 1982, the launch date of Channel 4. P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang screened the following day was also an early highlight. Originally, the company's films were intended for television screenings alone; the "holdback" system prevented investment in theatrical films by television companies because of the length of time (then three years) before broadcasters could screen them. An agreement soon concluded with the Cinema Exhibitors Association allowed a brief period of cinema exhibition if the budget of the films was below £1.25 million. Channel Four Films struck several deals with other film production companies including the BFI Production Board, Goldcrest Films and Merchant Ivory. By 1984, Channel Four Films were investing in a third of the feature films made in the UK.
Channel Four's Business Development Department was formed in 1983 for TV and film sales and they also invested in foreign films including Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984) and Jan Svankmajer's Alice (1988). In 1985 FilmFour International was created as a separate international film sales arm and to invest in foreign film, including Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice (1986).
Channel Four Film's first big hit was Frears' third feature film for the cinema, My Beautiful Laundrette, in 1985. Originally shot in 16mm for Channel 4 it was met with such critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Film Festival that it was acquired by Orion Classics and distributed to cinemas and became an international success.
In 1987, FilmFour International agreed a licensing deal with Orion Classics to handle US distribution of two more FilmFour features, Rita, Sue and Bob Too and A Month in the Country. By 1987, Channel 4 had an interest in half the films being made in the United Kingdom.
Rose and Channel Four Films are credited by many as being a significant figure in the regeneration of British cinema and particularly remembered for films such as Wish You Were Here, Dance With a Stranger, Mona Lisa, and Letter to Brezhnev. Channel Four Films also invested in early Working Title Films as well as most of the films of Frears, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. Leigh told writer Hannah Rothschild around 2008 that Film on Four had saved the British film industry: "This is a non-negotiable, historical fact of life and anybody who suggests that this isn’t the case is simply either suffering from some kind of ignorance or has got some terrible chip."
Rose remained in his post as Commissioning Editor until March 1990. During his tenure at Channel 4, Rose approved the making of 136 films, half of which received cinema screenings. Of the films Rose backed, 20 were from overseas sources, including work by directors Theo Angelopoulos, Andrei Tarkovsky and Wim Wenders.
David Aukin joined as head of drama in October 1990 and took over responsibility for Film on Four. He changed his title to head of film in 1997 which he remained until 1998.
The company had another big international success with Jordan's The Crying Game in 1992. In addition it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture as was Howards End the same year. Damage also received an Academy Award nomination that year. Later in 1993, Leigh's Naked and Loach's Raining Stones were entered into competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
The following year, Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral became the highest-grossing UK film of all time and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996) was also very successful.
In the 1990s, Channel Four partnered with The Samuel Goldwyn Company to create a distribution company to release Channel Four films and Goldwyn films in the UK but Goldwyn pulled out late on and in August 1995, Film Four Distributors was formed. Its first release was Blue Juice (1995) and its first major successes were Secrets & Lies and Brassed Off in 1996.
In 1998, the company was re-branded as FilmFour with an annual budget of £32 million for 8 to 10 films. East Is East (1999) becomes their biggest self-funded film. In 2000, the company signed a three-year deal with Warner Bros. to make seven films with budgets of more than £13 million but their first, Charlotte Gray (2001) was not the success they hoped for.
The company cut its budget and staff significantly in 2002, due to mounting losses, and was reintegrated into the drama department of Channel 4. The name "Film4 Productions" was introduced in 2006 to tie in with the relaunch of the FilmFour broadcast channel as Film4.
Tessa Ross was head of both Film4 and Channel 4 drama from 2002 to 2014.
This is a list of the most notable productions by Film4.