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Heaven and earth set to a halt


source ; moneyweb

Filming on a romantic epic called Heaven and Earth which was set to star Pierce Brosnan and Californication star Natasha McElhone, has ground to a halt despite elaborate sets being built in Cape Town for the R200m plus epic romantic biopic.

Local and international news reports have laid the blame on "the credit crunch" and "cash-flow problems" but inside sources say that the real problem was a bungled effort to raise funds timeously. The film is a collaboration between Focus Films from the UK and Spier Films in South Africa.

"Basically Spier Films was supposed to be the SA production company and Focus Films was to have brought some of the money and skills. We hear that Pierce Brosnan was signed to play the lead in December at price tag of a EUR2,5m," said a British crew member from Cape Town who did not want to be named.

"Most of the crews haven't been paid for the last three weeks, and they have been working in good faith. We were supposed to start shooting last Thursday, and we already had a full and very elaborate set. Natasha has been out here for two weeks doing dancing lessons and getting horse riding lessons. The film was pulled literally as the cameras were about to start to roll," the crew member said.

"There are a lot of local hire and production support companies that are now out of money because they offered services and products to the makers of the film because of their names and on good faith. None of this has been paid for."

It appears that the film has stalled because of a lack of bridging finance, which was due to come from the IDC.

When approached for comment on this matter the IDC replied: "According to Basil Ford, head of media & motion pictures: The IDC did not consider the project for funding as we were not given sufficient time, we received the application a week before the movie was scheduled to start shooting."

Crew members were called into a meeting last week Friday where they were told by one of the films producers David Pupkewitz of Focus Films UK "The funds have been totally exhausted. There is nothing left."

Industry sources say that the film could leave a trail of debt. In the meeting Pupkewitz put the figure for current debt at R6m, but on set sources say that this will be as high as R10m when the full tally is done.

A synopsis of the film was available for view on Focus Films' website, but following a story in Independent's Tonight, this was pulled from the company's filmography.

Speaking from Spier Film's offices in Cape Town, Pupkewitz said that they hadn't closed the paperwork on financing. "We had a short period to do this because Pierce Brosnan was only signed in December, so we could only started on financing before the new year. The production got ahead of the paperwork. We did pump in over $1m dollars, but we couldn't go into filming before the main funding came through."

"The talent are now so emotionally invested that they want to continue with the film. We have had a look at scheduling and we will have to look at Brosnan and McElhone's schedule and are hoping that the best critical path would be to start up in a month's time."

When asked why the application for funding was put through to the IDC so late, Pupkewitz said: "I don't want to comment on the IDC because it doesn't serve us and it is a hornet's nest. Parties are very sensitive to criticism in South Africa. I don't think it is right to comment there because it can hurt our cause. I am the UK co-producer. It is the SA co-producers' responsibility to raise local funding. The application was submitted by Spier Films. To date we haven't received any cash flow from South Africa."

The management of Spier Films were not available for comment this morning.

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