Tim Dennison has leveraged his career to becoming “The Go-To Producer Guy” for low budget films.
We caught up with him a fortnight after the Cannes Film Festival.
Did you go to film school?
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity of going to Film School. My route of entry was as a tea boy, through a commercials company called The Shooting Lodge. I was also given the opportunity to work in their cutting rooms to get a general understanding of post-production – it was a great way to learn because I was never under any real pressure – but they were very informative years. I was also fortunate at the time, as one of the commercials producers was a gentleman called Roger Randall Cutler who had just raised the budget to make his debut feature film – “Dance with a Stranger” – directed by Mike Newell. Roger kindly asked if I wanted to work on the film as a runner – and this was my first introduction into the world of movies!
What was the most important thing you have learned
The most important thing is two-fold really. The movie business is so about PEOPLE – and your RELATIONSHIP with them. The old adage is true in some cases, it’s not ‘what you know’, but WHO you know. And the second factor is, no matter how you go about it, start with a ‘sound’ script and make sure it is the very best it can be – don’t go to financiers too early before the script is fully thought through and address any script concerns upfront, because they will only come and bite you on the ass, when the film is in the cutting room – and by that point, it’s probably too late!
What was your first Big Break?
My first big break came when a property developing representative pushed the door buzzer to my little office in Wardour Street – asking if I would be willing to assign my lease to them for a sum of money, as they were looking to develop the building for a big restaurant complex – which later became the Metzo! This money gave me the opportunity to fund and produce my first movie, REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID! Making this film was my ‘education and film school, all rolled in one’ in how NOT to make a movie….but what a learning curve!
If you had to do it over, what would you do differently?
I think I would have spent more time on developing my relationships with people much earlier on in my career. I also think we are all often our own worst enemies, and often hold ourselves back through our own insecurities – which we shouldn’t. Some of the opportunities I was given in the past, I should have probably taken….but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
What (if anything) has changed about the film industry has changed since you started out?
It has to be technology, without a doubt. With the advent of the digital era, film making has become a highly accessible process to EVERYONE. This has to be a good thing as there is far more product and choice out there now. This may also just be the tip of the iceberg as the technological revolution takes hold – which even some of the smartest minds are still trying to come to terms with – especially in how to make money out of it.
I’m told the music industry has gone through it’s transition, books and publishing was next and now it’s the turn of the last big bastion of media and technology….the film business. What will it be like in as little as 2-3 years time – who knows, but we will ALL have to adapt, that’s for sure!
Tell us about your first project/late latest project
My first feature film project was REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID which we started with our own funds of approx £100K. Through lack of knowledge and pure inexperience, by the time we had finished shooting the first week, we where already a week behind! It was a massive learning curve and something that I look back on today with fond memories. Ultimately, we spent all our own money and needed to raise further funds if the film was to ever see the light of day. This was soon addressed in the form of an advert we had cheekily placed in the satirical magazine called Private Eye, for completion funds. Our prayers were eventually answered in the form of a private investor from Grimsby, enabling us to finish the film and eventually premiere it at the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square!
My latest project is somewhat of a departure for me – probably to do with age and mellowing. Its a film called EDIE. It’s a gentle tale of an elderly lady taking on one final challenge in her life – by traveling the breadth of England and up one of the highest mountains to come to rest with her lost love.
The film’s director is also making a radical departure from his usual genre fare to get this ‘passion piece’ made. It’s to be helmed by Simon Hunter who I have produced twice before, LIGHTHOUSE and most recently, the big sci-fi pic, MUTANT CHRONICLES.
Edie will be a challenging project in it’s own right, especially with filming over some very harsh terrain with a small crew. We are currently exploring the best one of putting the budget together – of approx £350,000 – which we hope to raise through private investment and possible via an E.I.S. (Enterprise Investment Scheme) which gives great tax incentives to the investor/s. If there is anybody out there interested, we’d love to hear from you and you too, could become involved in the fun process of making a fantastic movie!
You can contact Tim Dennison here: