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Friday, October 2, 1998 Published at 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK


So you want to make movies?

Cameo appearance: Cannabis campaigner Howard Marks

So you've seen a few Tarantino films and fancy emulating his meteoric rise from video rental shop-assistant to multi-million-dollar movie director.

You might even have the perfect script and a few friends in the movie business - but what you need most is money - how do you get it?

A share in the profits

A small film company in London has arrived at what seems like a novel solution. Fifth Wheel Productions is asking you, the viewing public, to stump up 1,000 in exchange for a part as an extra and a share in the film's profits.The company hopes to raise 2m to finance its film entitled Paraphernalia.

But it is not an entirely new idea - Fifth Wheel Productions is taking advantage of a government enterprise investment scheme which offers tax incentives to investors.

The writer-director Kevin Howell says that after recent advertising he has had lots of phone calls from interested individuals - but with roughly 70,000 raised so far he still has a long way to go.

But how do you attract the big money? The New Producers Alliance in Soho, London offers workshops, lectures and advice to people just starting out.

It suggests that a popular and obvious place to attract investors is at the annual film festival in Cannes - or failing that, would-be film makers can try production houses like Miramax and Working Title, or apply for Lottery funding and government schemes.

'It's all in the pitch'

Director of NPA, Jane Ivey, says that one of the most important things to master is "the pitch", that is, a way to describe your script succinctly and attractively to industry executives. She even runs courses in the art.

"You've got to be prepared to 'pitch' anywhere at a moment's notice" she says "at Cannes you may only have 20 seconds in a lift with someone - you got to do it."

Writer-director Kevin Howell, who belongs to the FPA didn't have much luck pitching at Cannes although he says "a lot of people were interested".

He describes his script as being in the tradition of the successful British films Trainspotting, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Withnail & I.

It focuses on the lives of a group of disaffected twenty-somethings in North London during a last long hot summer before the new millennium. Drugs play a part too - cannabis culture is the central theme.

Write about what you know

At 26, Kevin Howell is young and relatively inexperienced - if Paraphernalia gets off the ground it will be his first feature film - but that has not dented his enthusiasm.

As a writer he appears to be following the traditional advice of "write about what you know" - he says the script is "definitely autobiographical".

He also says that he is motivated by wanting to dispel some of the myths surrounding cannabis and help promote its medicinal use.

Mr Nice lends a hand

Helping him to do just that is the convicted cannabis smuggler Howard Marks - better known from his autobiography as Mr Nice. He is said to be "very enthusiastic" about the project.

Mr Marks will make a cameo appearance in the film, most likely in the role of Harry, a dope dealer "a man who's done more drugs than Timothy Leary and William Burroughs put together".

Fifth Wheel Productions hopes to raise enough money to shoot the movie next summer. With the support of Howard Marks and hopefully a host of would-be extras waving cheques for 1,000 - it might just happen.

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