Ridley Scott to helm low-budget films at Focus

Veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott will be heading up an initiative to push low-budget genre films through Focus Features International.

Indie and low-budget genre films have been a hot commodity lately from Chronicle to Paranormal Activity. The grainy, shaky camera and the pull-back from expensive special effects is appealing to an audience inundated with multi-billion dollar movies every summer.

Focus Features understandably wants to get in on that game. It can’t, by definition, produce any indie films, but  can certainly shoestring some budgets, and look for some creativity to draw out of the indie scene.

This is somewhat ironic, especially considering Focus’ roots as a low-budget film studio. Clearly, it has come a long way from the up-start days, when the studio was assembled from a collection of smaller independent efforts, and  made a name for itself with their first real Hollywood budgeted picture, Being John Malkovitch.

True, Focus still doesn’t have the budget of Disney or Fox, and most of their films still come in under $50m, but as part of NBC Universal, the studio is no longer seen as a home for small projects, and perhaps now looks back on those days with longing.

Focus has never produced all that much sci-fi, however, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that the studio wants to start making itself known for low-budget “horror, thriller, and sci-fi” pictures. To lead up this initiative, and perhaps to let people know that they’re not kidding around, the studio has recruited legendary sci-fi thriller director Ridley Scott, the man responsible for Blade Runner and the Alien franchise – which now includes, to its detriment, the recent Prometheus. Recent efforts notwithstanding, Scott is a director know internationally for his entries into the genres.

The first round of six films will be produced in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen, and Scott will be spending a lot of time in Ireland working with the filmmakers who are chosen to make these films, being on hand for them as a creative consultant and general mentor, but not taking direct control of their productions away from them. While he will have no official title for any of the films, I would expect to see “Ridley Scott presents” above the titles in the final posters.

“Our target is to create a structure that enables filmmakers to push boundaries and to excite audiences,” Scott explained.  “Our proposed model of filmmaking allows us to give helmers the opportunity to really innovate through narrative, production techniques and [distribution] strategies.”

Focus Features International’s Alison Thompson added, “There’s an appetite and market for high-concept low budget films – that combined with Ridley Scott’s pedigree will be very attractive to international buyers.” 

No titles, synopses, dates, or other details  have been announced for the six films, but Scott’s initial contract is only three years long, so one would expect that the films will be developed and produced inside that timeframe if possible. If the project is a success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do a second round of films with Scott or perhaps a different mentor.