As Senior Executive for Fulwell 73 Heather is a BAFTA nominated Producer who oversees a whole range of film and broadcast content from initial development & budget negotiations, through production, post, delivery & distribution.
Following studying Stage Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Heather moved into Film and TV Production joining Fulwell 73 in 2012. Heading up theatrical documentaries ‘THE CLASS OF 92’ (Universal), ‘ONE DIRECTION – WHERE WE ARE’ (Sony Music), ‘MO FARAH – NO EASY MILE’ (BBC/Universal), and ‘I AM BOLT’ (Universal) which followed Usain Bolt through to the Olympics in Rio. Recent work includes critically acclaimed ‘HITSVILLE – THE MAKING OF MOTOWN’ the first official all access feature documentary with Berry Gordy about the legendary Record Label and the BAFTA Nominated social sensation ‘BROS – AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS’. A raw and emotional look into the aftermath of fame and the re-connection between twins torn apart by their past.
As Producer on the theatrical scripted slate 2014 saw the release of gritty drama ‘THE GUVNORS’ (Metrodome). Followed by ‘LEVEL UP’ (Universal). and ‘WHITE ISLAND’ shot in Ibiza, starring Billy Zane and Billy Boyd securing its world premiere in competition for ‘Best of British’ at the Edinburgh Film Festival with an event cinema release through Our Screen.
As Fulwell 73 makes a concerted push into the scripted space the last 12 months has seen Heather focusing on building a slate seeking out Co-Production and IP opportunities that fit into its ambitions, looking to ensure her reputation and establish the business as a major player in the global film industry.
Recently announced in development for 2021 and beyond are:
‘FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS’ a boxing biopic on the legendary rivalry between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank and ‘DRAGGED TO CHURCH’ based on the true story of a Welsh community that hosted a drag show to raise vital funds needed to bring their church back from disrepair being penned by Eve Myles and Peter Darney. She is particularly excited to be working with Wiip in the US on a HE Series reimagining of the British classic ‘MOONDIAL’ by Helen Cresswell.
What attracted you to Inside Pictures (IP)?
IP will expose me to different ways of working in film that I can bring into Fulwell and simultaneously make strong personal connections internationally. Whether it be for European co-productions or the US side of things.
Fulwell 73 is well known internationally for entertainment and unscripted content. We want to achieve the same in terms of scripted productions. For me to be part of IP really does help me understand the industry better and make the connections needed to be able to progress in the industry for both myself and Fulwell. I’m very much part of the UK filmmaking world, that’s what I know and do. IP will give me a chance to gain a better understanding of the US studio system and maximise opportunity for global projects.
DRAGGED TO CHURCH – co-written by Eve Myles & Peter Darney. How do you find a film project like that?
Eve Myles (star of KEEPING FAITH) and I met while in drama school together in Wales. One late night lockdown catch up over zoom she told me about a local story of drag queens that had saved the closure of a Cardiff church in disrepair, by putting on a show. During this trying time for the church, the Vicar sadly lost his grandson too. The bigger story was no longer just about saving an important building, but about the community coming together.
We’ve been friends for over 20 years, and we’d always said that one day we’ll find the right project to work on together. This felt like the right time. I’m in a brilliant position at Fulwell to build my own slate. Plus, her relationships within the industry mean Eve can attract other talent to come on board for key roles. Eve and I are keen to nurture new writers and keep it an authentic story. Peter Darney, who’s a successful LGBTQ+ playwright, is Eve’s co-writer. He was in his first year at drama school, while we were studying, and we were also still in touch – it felt like an incredible serendipity to come together for this film. We’ve had backing from Ffilm Cymru to develop it and the script is now out there seeking a Director and Finance partners.
MOONDIAL – an adaptation of Helen Cresswell’s YA novel… Why reboot it?
The book and 1988 BBC mini-series are favourites of mine. Essentially, it’s a time travel story set around Belton house in Lincolnshire – where I’m originally from. I went to visit it when they were filming. It became quite an obsession of mine, as a kid.
The pilot’s being written by Matt Lopez, who wrote Nicolas Cage starrer THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE and Dwayne Johnson’s RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN. I’m really excited about it. I can’t talk about any details, but rebooting Moondial is a fantastic opportunity to create an epic family fantasy story. Everybody needs some escapism right now as we’ve seen with the success of shows like HIS DARK MATERIALS.
BROS: AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS (2018). What were the first indications for you as producers that this was becoming a social sensation in the UK?
It had a cinematic release in late 2018. Bros fans had gone to see it, up and down the country. It even played at the London Film Festival 2018, which was really exciting, but the Christmas day 2018 transmission, by the BBC, definitely helped the film find a much wider audience. I thought something was happening because by Boxing Day I had loads of missed calls, and all my socials had gone crazy. And it was blue tick people talking about it. Not people I know, but people who’d actually got followers. From there, it snowballed, by word of mouth, throughout the Christmas period. Co-directors Joe Perlman and David Soutar were suddenly being approached for breakfast television, national radio and so on.
It was a really quick turnaround for a Fulwell documentary – less than six months from the first meeting with Matt and Luke Goss to the O2 concert in August 2017. I remember from the initial meeting with them, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a straightforward music documentary/comeback story. Bottom line is, they’re nice chaps that got very famous very young, but staying famous gets increasingly difficult over time. Aside from the infamous quotes, when watching the film you start to feel connected to Matt and Luke. It becomes quite upsetting to see what they’re going through. They just laid everything out for us, signed it over and trusted us not to abuse that trust.
Trust is something Fulwell does really well. Anybody coming into one of our productions, whether it be Beckham, a 1D member, or whoever, needs to feel that they can talk and they’re not going to censor themselves. A key part of the pre-production process is spending time making sure they’re comfortable with us and our cameras.
In the ten years you’ve been with Fulwell, you’ve seen it grow from six to circa seventy people across the globe. What are some of changes you’ve seen in film and TV over that time?
Obviously, there’s the influx of the streamers and the expansion of social media. You can create content now that can be instantly seen by millions via a smart phone. With that added competition for eyeballs, it raises the question, will there be a need for the bigger budget stuff? Are audiences going to want to go to the cinema, if they can watch everything at home?
Fulwell has always been an agnostic company – not just documentary filmmakers, not just a music video company. We are a group of really collaborative, talented creatives with different tastes, who didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. In the early days we would produce the live concert film, the music video, the behind the scenes documentary and the perfume ad. All of that different content, all through one company. I don’t think anybody else was doing that at the time. Now, it’s more common. Much of our success really comes down to our relationships with talent that that approach fostered. Regardless of how audiences choose to consume content, that’s not going to change going forward. If talent enjoy working with you, and you’re creating good stuff, they’re going to keep coming back to you.
In the recent past, event releases for documentaries were a way to sell DVDs, but the DVD market has gone. Those DVD sales would’ve been your upside to documentary making and filmmaking. Now we’re looking at how to keep our productions profitable, but also continue to make the quality we are best known for – unscripted or scripted.
It’s going be interesting to see what happens to theatrical releases post-COVID. All these tentpole films that have been held back. Where are they going to go? Will they all manage to play in theatres? It’s such a strange time where distributors and exhibitors have enough content for theatrical, they don’t need much more. On the other hand, it seems like streamers are always going to want more and more.
The premium experience is in cinemas. Whether that’s to watch a movie or an English National Opera performance. You know it’s premium content, and you pay a premium for the privilege. On Disney+ you could see CRUELLA on their platform because of COVID, but they charge the same price as a cinema ticket to watch during the initial release window. Audiences wanting access to that film were prepared to pay that price without the cinema experience to go with it. And the window between cinema and platform is getting shorter and shorter. So, yeah, it’s an interesting time.
What’s been the impact of COVID?
The partners at Fulwell 73 pretty quickly made us feel like we were all in this together. Nobody was furloughed. They made sure that we were reaching out to everyone within the company. We did secondments within the business. If someone’s job wasn’t able to continue because of working from home, it was made clear that your skills are needed. For example, the office manager logged scripts, or one of the development team, with editing experience, started editing one of our projects.
I was tasked with doing a full assessment of all our content and making sure that there were people selling it. A priority was to make sure that every window of opportunity was being explored for all our IP. For example, we re-placed the likes of PIGGY (2011) and THE GUVNORS (2014).
Medium and longer term – What will go back to how it was before COVID, and what is likely to remain changed forever?
I don’t think we’ll ever get back to normal because we’ve moved the goalposts in the way audiences consume film and TV.
However, the practical implications of filmmaking are really difficult in a COVID world. Whatever you do, to keep people safe, it only takes one COVID case and it’s shut down. You saw it in the trades reporting on BRIDGERTON and the prequel to GAME OF THRONES. It’s a real practical headache to make films/TV at the moment.
That said, I’ve never known the industry this busy. It’s amazing what’s happened since the government brought in the tax rebate for shooting in the UK. Now, we don’t have enough studio space. We don’t have enough equipment. I’m hearing stories of people having to shoot without a dolly and track because there aren’t any available. The growth in UK productions is expected to be more so in the next 5-10 years. Which is great for the future, but we need to make sure the grassroots training is happening more quickly to keep up with demand without losing sight of the quality of the work, and making sure there’s diversity behind and in front of the camera. And if anything comes out of the last few years – #metoo, Black Lives Matter – the thing that’s going to be important is that we change recruitment attitudes in the industry. It can’t continue to be the old boys’ network anymore. It can’t just be about who you know. It has to be about how you’ve trained, your competence and your experience to date.
Fulwell has recently announced further expansion and have set up offices in the North, with plans for a Studio facility to service the nationwide growth in production. Top of the agenda here is grass root training and ensuring the quality of production expected can continue to be delivered. We are working with training facilities in the North East including the University of Sunderland to continue to facilitate this growth.
It’s a Sunday afternoon, it’s raining, you’ve nothing else to do that day, what film are you putting on to relax with?
That will always be STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE (1977) or RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). I’m a product of the 80s and that means I like pop music and Stephen Spielberg films. The first film I saw at the cinema was E.T. (1982), and it just made me obsessed with space and aliens ever since.