Magazine article Screen International

Stars of Tomorrow One-to-One: ?Duncan Kenworthy & Loran Dunn

Magazine article Screen International

Stars of Tomorrow One-to-One: ?Duncan Kenworthy & Loran Dunn

Article excerpt

Love Actually producer talks to one of Screen’s 2017 Stars.

Duncan Kenworthy is one of the UK’s most successful producers, with titles including Love Actually to his name. He talks to Star of Tomorrow and producer Loran Dunn about the value of staying small and keeping an eye on the details

Loran Dunn and Duncan Kenworthy

Loran Dunn: I have read that Four Weddings And A Funeral was hard to get off the ground. How did you keep the faith?

Duncan Kenworthy: To set the context, I was managing director of the Henson Company in the UK [in 1992]. Richard Curtis, who I knew socially, gave me the script.

I thought it was the best thing he had ever written. I said, “I’ll work with you for a bit. I can’t produce it but I’d like to help you find a director.”

We worked on the script and it got to the point where I didn’t want to let it go, because I thought it was too good. Disney were trying to buy Hensons and didn’t want us to do any production, so I asked Brian Henson if I could take a leave of absence to produce Four Weddings And A Funeral for Working Title.

We tried very hard to get the film financed in 1992 and failed. It could have all gone away but, through the winter of 1992, [director] Mike [Newell], Richard and I kept working on the script and meeting actors. So, partly, the answer to your question is that I already had a job [at Hensons]. But we were also totally committed.

Click here for the complete list of 2017 Screen Stars of Tomorrow.

LD: You’ve gone from making huge commercial movies to making the small indie film The Pass. What led you to do that?

DK: One of the great things about being a one-man band is that my company is just me and my assistant…

LD: That’s the same as my company at the moment.

DK: Good, that’s very sensible. If you stay like that, you can choose not to make things too soon and go on working until the script’s absolutely ready. The moment you expand and hire a head of development and a business affairs person, you have to earn fees to pay their salaries. That means you can’t afford sometimes to not go into production.

One of the classic problems with the British film industry is things often get made when they just needed another pass on the script. It’s very hard to live hand-to-mouth and do everything yourself, but that’s where creative success lies. Just keep working, working, working until it’s perfect at script stage. I’ve never been of the opinion that you make a film on camera. To me, you make it on page then translate it into film.

LD: It’s really encouraging to hear that. I’ve been warned off being a one-man band by nearly everyone.

DK: It can be hard until you have what I had: a big, surprising success that made some money. And then my company went on to make more money through the romantic comedies I made with Richard.

With money in the bank I could spend time on development and choose whether to make something or not. Normally, my first piece of advice is never to use your own money to make a film. The reason is not, “What will you use to buy food with?”.

Rather, it’s because the nature of the industry is film distribution. If you spend your own money making a film and it’s not very good - which is always likely - no one will want to distribute it and you’ll lose everything. But if you get a distributor to finance your movie, they have to release it to get their money back. …

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