Team behind Toilers film boldly go in search of stars

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A STRING of Hollywood stars has been linked to a £10m. big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea – that will be mostly filmed in Guernsey.

David Shanks, Joy Mellins and Eryl Ellis when the visited in March. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 24976706)

The story tells the tale of a fisherman from Guernsey who tries to find a shipwreck so he can marry a local woman.

Tom Hardy, Jason Isaacs, Cillian Murphy and Chris Pine have been pencilled in as potential actors to play the lead character of Gilliatt.

With a possible release in 2021, husband and wife producer team David Shanks and Joy Mellins are now looking to raise £100,000 to fund development work to take the project forward. They also confirmed that the ‘majority’ of the film will be shot in the island.

‘We want to make an international film that will not only showcase this beautiful island but will also make Victor Hugo’s name synonymous with Guernsey,’ said Mr Shanks yesterday when he addressed this month’s Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Old Government House hotel.

Mr Shanks, who considers himself a Guernseyman, said that he had had a dream for more than 30 years to turn Toilers of the Sea into a film.

‘We need to get this right, which is why the first thing we want to produce is a pitch document that is properly researched, scheduled and costed in all areas with sale projections and distributors on board in order to minimise the risk for the major investment needed in this film, which is probably about £10m.,’ he said.

‘So, we are asking for contributions, corporate or individual, adding up to £100,000 which will be effectively a loan to the company created to make this film repayable with a 20% uplift if we succeed in raising the finance for the film.’

He added: ‘Any contributor will be entitled to either visit the set during filming at a mutually agreeable date and time or to nominate someone to be an extra in the film. This is our first port of call for this money as this is the natural home and Guernsey will be the beneficiary.’


During his career in TV and film production, Mr Shanks said he had ‘spent over £200m. of investors’ money and never come in over budget or over schedule. And more importantly all of that money has been recouped’.

Setting out their vision for the film, Joy Mellins said: ‘It’s a story of passion and true love. With these amazing stunning images, strong characters and sound design of the marketplace, the birds, the seas combined with a male voice choir and a passionate score, this film really has to be the most exciting project that I have encountered and I think its potential is limitless.’

The development money would enable the couple to bring together a ‘team of like-minded people’ that shared their passion – and crucially excite film distributors to ensure the film reached its full potential.

‘The project will be beautiful and has the potential to win awards across the global market if I’ve got anything to do with it,’ she added.


The producers were asked about potential cast members, including the possibility of Chris Pine, who played Captain Kirk in Star Trek, taking part. ‘Chris Pine is someone we’ve worked with before. He used to call us Mum and Dad,’ said the couple.

Ms Mellins added: ‘I keep in touch with him via WhatsApp. So, his availability will be the biggest issue. So the cast that we have suggested is the level that we are looking for.

‘Chris, obviously we’ve already had conversations to find out his schedule. But the last conversation we had, he doesn’t have a break for the next three years – which isn’t going to work for us. But things fall out all the time.

‘But that’s something we will have to deal with when it comes to actually getting the lead because we want a name that’s going to put bums on seats effectively. Because sales agents and distributors, they don’t necessarily read scripts. They just actually [say]: “who’s directing it, who’s starring in it? Yeah, I can sell it” and it’s as simple as that.

‘So, we have to make their job easier by getting the right cast and the right director.’

Will Green

By Will Green
Business Editor

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