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
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
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
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."