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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 09:16 GMT
Taking on the Hollywood machine
By Jon Morrison
At LA International Film Festival and the American Film Market

Punk Cinema, the British film production company I work for, was invited to Hollywood by the American Film Institute, both to screen their debut film, The Gigolos, and take part one of the world's biggest film markets.

The Gigolos is a comedy but it is also a buddy movie, with the idea behind it being when you have a new lover every night, what you really need is a friend.

Sacha Tarter
Sacha Tarter plays the lead gigolo in the film
The two gigolos in question, played by Sacha Tarter and Trevor Sather, cater for women including rich, over-60s clients played by British screen legends Sian Phillips, Anna Massey and Susanna York.

Pitching The Gigolos at AFM was surreal.

Distributors rent suites in a Santa Monica hotel. Filmmakers wander from floor to floor, meeting and pitching.

It was like purgatory. Or speed dating.

Less than five minutes in each room to sell the movie it took two years to make.

How can you tell if you're making progress? Most conversations were hard to read. That's the LA way.

Susannah York
Susannah York is a wealthy client for the gigolos
You expect people to tell you what they think of the film: they never do. You leave the meeting and ask yourself: "What happened there?"

So, we took matters into our own hands. Everyone in Hollywood talks about what's "hot". We decided to create our own "heat".

We spotted Paris Hilton flouncing out from a nightclub at 3am and chased her, trying to position Sacha next to her and capture it all on camera phone.

"Shameless" was one word to describe it. "Improvised publicity moment" is a phrase we coined afterwards.

But Paris, bless her, was too drunk to play ball. Bang went the "Paris Hilton out with top London gigolo" headline.

Anna Massey and Sacha Tarter
Anna Massey also features in the film
Actor Andy Garcia came to our rescue, posing with Sacha for the cameras. He was also premiering his new film in LA. Suddenly, we were in with the in-crowd.

The LA Times reviewed the movie and called it a "subtly delightful film", just before our Sunday premiere.

The auditorium was standing room only. We'd handed out 200 flyers during the day. Admittedly, much of that was done round the hotel pool.

But the audience really got the film. The Gigolos is edgy, modern British comedy and Sunset Boulevard loved it.

A week of meetings with Hollywood execs followed. We're not after tens of millions.

But as one exec said, you can ask for $5m or $0.5m and they'll treat it the same - they're both low-budget.

Sacha Tarter and Trevor Sather
Tarter's co-star is Trevor Sather
It seemed that only horror movies were getting distribution. Gigolos director Richard Bracewell co-hosted a radio show, interviewing other filmmakers at the festival.

None of them had distribution either. And these are great movies - real talent.

Everyone tells you Hollywood is desperate for new ideas. We read in the press that The Gigolos was one of the freshest films around. But would this translate into action? The phone was silent.

Finally, Hollywood woke up to the fact we were leaving. The phone started ringing.

We haven't closed the deal yet, but we've achieved a lot. Hollywood now knows who we are. We're talking to some pretty big names - not just Andy Garcia. Best of all, no one has anything but praise for the film.

Taking The Gigolos to LA was just the start. Now we're waiting for Hollywood to call us back...

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