African adventures : Film Finances Ltd. and actor-producers on safari

HALL, Sheldon (2014). African adventures : Film Finances Ltd. and actor-producers on safari. In: Film and History seminar series, Centre for World Cinemas, 13 March 2014.

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At a particularly fraught moment during the filming of Zulu, production supervisor Colin Lesslie noted that it was 'imperative' that director Cy Endfield realised that 'this is really a "Western" shot in South Africa and instead of cowboys and "injuns", it's Zulus and soldiers'. For Lesslie, Endfield's overweening ambition for a prestige epic threatened to destabilise the film's delicate finances. In an almost identical observation, Lesslie's counterpart on The Naked Prey, fellow Zulu veteran Basil Keys, stated that director-star Cornel Wilde was trying too hard for an Oscar-winner when he should have been making an action-adventure quickie. For both supervisors, seeing these films as African Westerns was a way of allotting to them a certain commercial and artistic status which, they felt, the directors were reluctant to accept because of their aspirations to make something more important; from a financial standpoint, they were thereby jeopardising the success of their projects.

Lesslie and Keys were appointed to their roles by Film Finances, a British-based company founded in 1950, which continues to provide completion bonds for international film production. The recent opening up to scholars of Film Finances' archives has provided a rare opportunity to inspect primary documents pertaining to the financing and production of a large number of films made between 1950 and 1980. My research is based on a selection of files relating to these two films, both made on location in Africa by actors turned producers: Zulu (1964), starring and produced by Stanley Baker in collaboration with director Cy Endfield; and The Naked Prey (1966), starring, directed and produced by Cornel Wilde. This paper looks at the ways in which Film Finances and its representatives attempted to exert a measure of control over productions (not always successfully) to limit financial risk and to ensure delivery of the films within budget and schedule. It also explores the degree to which the filmmakers' creative decision-making was influenced, constrained or enabled by the financial and practical constraints within which they were obliged to work.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Communication and Computing Research Centre
Depositing User: Sheldon Hall
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 10:34
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 13:37

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