The four friends behind production outfit Fulwell 73 have high hopes after their freewheeling football doc In The Hands Of The Gods. Matt Mueller reports.
With a tale that echoes their documentary In The Hands Of The Gods, the four young Brits who make up film-making collective Fulwell 73 set out to achieve their dream - and ended up busking their way to success on little more than a wing and a prayer.
Brothers Gabe and Benjamin Turner, their cousin Leo Pearlman and close friend Ben Winston, set up Fulwell 73 four years ago to move into feature film-making.
In the beginning, they focused their efforts on television, producing The Freestyle Show for Sky, when they met five young men who fantasised about using their freestyle football skills to busk their way to Argentina in the hope of meeting their idol, Diego Maradona.
Latching onto the young freestylers' dream as a golden chance to fulfil their own goals, Fulwell 73 pitched the idea to the UK Film Council, which gave them $20,000 (£10,000) to make a pilot that followed the freestylers around London; it helped Fulwell 73 raise the feature budget through private investors.
When the original financier pulled out three weeks before shooting, Rebecca Green at Green Wolf Films “saved our lives”, says Winston.
With the Turner brothers acting as directors and Winston and Pearlman as producers, the quartet set off on a six-week odyssey. As they made their way to Argentina, the footballers slept rough, went hungry and eventually split into two groups - forcing Fulwell 73 to follow both. Pearlman says: “Our crew was 11 people and at one point we were filming in four different locations around the world.”
Ironically, the most difficult thing was getting Maradona to sign the release form, a necessity for their distribution deal with Lionsgate UK.
From editing the film in Ben Turner's bedroom to having a big London premiere in September 2007 and opening on 80 screens, In The Hands Of The Gods has exceeded their wildest expectations (Independent handled sales and Nike also came on board).
They hope the exposure will allow them to make more films, as well as build a network of young British film-making talent. They are developing a slate of narrative projects, including a poker drama to star Stephen Graham (This Is England), while pitching documentary ideas such as the tale of a British-Indian runner trying to reach the Beijing Olympics.
“We went into it with just this slightly ridiculous idea, and we hadn't done much in film,” Winston says. “Suddenly we're in Cannes getting offers from distributors and going into 80 cinemas on the opening weekend. Things are exciting but it's all about making our second film now.”