Variety.Com February 5, 2006

'Cashback' double dips

People sometimes talk about remaking short films into features, but it rarely happens.

One exception is "Cashback," the British short nominated for an Oscar. Writer/director Sean Ellis has already completed a full-length feature version, which was picked up last week by French major Gaumont for worldwide sale.

Gaumont has also pacted with Ellis and his producing partner Lene Bausager to develop and finance their next movie.

Ellis hasn't so much remade his 19-minute short as expanded it, recutting the original footage to blend seamlessly into the longer movie.

The short "Cashback" is a surreal black comedy that takes place entirely in a supermarket. An insomniac art student (Sean Biggerstaff) works the night shift while fantasizing about sketching female shoppers in the nude.

There's a hint of romance with an equally bored checkout girl (Emilia Fox), and that's the slender plotline Ellis has fleshed out into a full-scale movie.

The short was made in 2003, missing out on a BAFTABAFTA nomination last year, but winning prizes at the Chicago and Tribeca fests. That put it in the running for the Oscars.

Ellis and Bausager found that audiences wanted to know what happened to the characters before and after that night in the supermarket. Ellis wrote the feature script in a week, and they set about gathering the old cast again.

"Everyone wanted to do it, and fortunately they all still looked the same, but the only time they were all available was only two months away," Bausager recalls. "We had to raise the money very quickly."

The $2 million budget came principally from Daphne Guinness, the heiress, fashionista and friend of Ellis, who backed the original short.

Gaumont has decided not to screen "Cashback" at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin, in the hope of securing a Cannes slot in May. Pic is part of a new push by the French major into edgier, sexier fare to supplement its usual roster of mainstream movies.

Ellis emerged as one of London's leading fashion photographers in the late '90s, crossing over into commercials and pop promos, including the award-winning All Saints video "Never Ever."

He teamed with Bausager, a Danish producer based in London, to make his debut short "Left Turn" and then "Cashback." They have two new feature scripts in the pipeline -- a psycho thriller "Madness Between Two," and a horror project "Broken."