Toilers of the Sea film ‘needs Guernsey’ say its producers

PRODUCERS of a new Toilers of the Sea film are meeting with some ‘heavyweight potential investors’ in Guernsey today, following a successful presentation of their plans to a local audience.

David Shanks and Joy Mellins are co-producers behind the feature film of Toilers of the Sea. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30124794)
David Shanks and Joy Mellins are co-producers behind the feature film of Toilers of the Sea. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30124794)

Joy Mellins and Dave Shanks have been laying the groundwork for their cinematic interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Travailleurs de la Mer for three years and have secured the services of director Andy Morahan and score composer John Cameron.

They have also secured funding commitments but more will be required before they can close the deal and start filming.

Out of a projected budget of £15m., £6m. is still needed, and they are keen to source the money locally.

‘We’ve always said Guernsey is the lead character in this film,’ said Mrs Mellins.

‘We could probably get it financed elsewhere, as we have contacts in the US and the UK, but if they put in a substantial amount, they’ll be likely to argue for filming to take place in the UK, as it was for the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film.’

That would be an understandable, practical decision for most producers, for tax reasons, but these producers have a certain regard for Guernsey that has influenced their priorities.

‘This film, creatively, needs Guernsey,’ Mr Shanks said.

‘We’re not prepared to compromise on that and that’s the reason we’re fighting so hard to get the money we need in Guernsey.’

Throughout the year, during frequent visits to the Bailiwick, the pair have been working to a schedule which would see filming begin at Castle Cornet in February, before going out to Malta at Easter to shoot the scenes involving the Durande, the ship which Hugo’s hero Gilliat sets out to salvage.

That schedule has not and cannot change.

‘Castle Cornet opens to visitors in March, so we can’t just bump the filming back by a month,’ Mr Shanks said.

‘We have to close the finance by the end of the year, otherwise we’ll be looking at September and then we’d have to rebuild all our momentum. Also, we’ve spent three years on this and our own coffers are running dry.’

Potential investors are being asked to provide a commitment to invest at least £50,000 each. Once the total sum required has been promised, investors will be called upon to stump up and the project can begin.

They will then have ‘first position recoupment’, meaning they will get back 120% of their investment before the film is considered to have made a profit.

‘If we reach the end of the year without quite getting there, we’ll be banging on the States’ door and asking if they really want to lose this opportunity,’ Mr Shanks said.

‘And while we see this as a Guernsey story, the world sees it as a Victor Hugo story, so there is considerable interest.

‘Sony-EMI has approached John Cameron, saying they’re prepared to put in tens of thousands for the rights to publish the score. That proves there’s commercial interest.’

Further commercial interest will be generated if, as planned, they secure an A-list actor to play Gilliat.

‘The ship rescue is about a third of the script,’ Mrs Mellins said.

‘It’s so important to get the performance and the music right. It’s Oscar material. It will test their talent.’

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