This is old news, but the subject is relevant since we just returned from Cannes and got a wake-up call on how European film financing works. Turns out the Red Dwarf creators once got that same wake-up call:
Series co-creator and the film’s scriptwriter/producer Doug Naylor attempted to shed some light on his plight in a letter read out at the show’s ‘Dimension Jump’ convention in 2004. He detailed numerous thwarted attempts to raise funding for the project, trips to Australia to assess the financial and locational possibilities of filming there, alongside some rather bizarre experiences. For example, at one stage a fraudster posing as the ‘Duke of Manchester’ offered £60 million investment – but only if Naylor would pay for his airfare to attend a meeting plus let him sleep on his couch.
Efforts to find funding on home soil were greeted with a series of rejections on bizarre grounds, according to Naylor’s letter: “The film has been rejected by many, many people,” he wrote. “They usually say they think it’s really funny but isn’t what they’re looking for right now – or ask us to recast the leads. BBC Films, the same BBC who rejected the original TV script three times, have rejected the film script twice – two versions. How much money has Red Dwarf made them? They said it wasn’t what they were looking for. Don’t they like hit movies?”
Furthermore, despite British films mostly being greeted with dismal box office receipts in recent years, Naylor was stunned to find out why the British Film Council had rejected the film on three occasions: “My favorite reason was when they told one of the producers that they thought Red Dwarf – The Movie was ‘too commercial.’ Let me repeat that – they rejected it because they thought it was too commercial.”
While Red Dwarf is less action and more science fiction, it’s still genre, and similar rules apply to the two.