Last Friday (18 March) saw the release of the latest film from independent production company Gateway Films.
But while it is fair to say that urban comedy Anuvahood might not have your classic magic circle partner rushing to their local multiplex, it could be a different story when it comes to a few subsequent Gateway releases.
This is because the next one off the blocks will feature one Chris Howard as an executive producer.
Howard, a banking partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer until late last year, when he jumped ship to City rival Linklaters, has spent much of his time between firms indulging his first love – films.
“I always wanted to be involved in something like this,” says Howard with obvious excitement. “Films are my absolute passion. I’ll watch a really good film 10 times because I find there’s always so much you miss first time.”
Weighed In: The Story of the Mumper is the movie that will put Howard’s name in lights for the first time. It is an underdog tale from the world of horse racing set against the print worker strikes of the 1980s. The strength of the script is aptly demonstrated by the fact that Gateway convinced Bob Hoskins and Jenny Agutter to take starring roles. Hoskins, legend has it, took the nascent script to the smallest room and was so transfixed that he stayed there until the last page.
The film is currently in post-production and slated to come out later this year, with another feature entitled 50:50 to follow soon after.
However, the project Howard is rightly most proud of is the next to emerge from the prolific Gateway stable – the self-penned Plastic.
Based on a true story, Plastic follows a group of small-time credit card fraudsters as they infiltrate a call centre and access details of high-net-worth individuals in a scam that eventually sees them rob a Beverley Hills diamond store. Howard admits that the idea to turn the tale into a film was driven in part by a grudging respect for the antiheroes.
“Their QC said that if these guys had gone to a different school they’d have been investment bankers,” he says, which, given his own client base, goes some way to explaining his fascination with the story.
Howard’s relationship with the silver screen began in his childhood. “My dad’s a movie fanatic,” he recalls. “He could tell you about every actor or director going back 50 years.”
But it was only last year that a chance meeting with Gateway founder and fellow producer Terry Stone gave Howard the opportunity to live his dream.
United by a love of cinema – and British cinema in particular – the pair hit it off immediately.
Stone describes their first meeting as “love at first sight”, while Howard says he has “never made a better investment” than the money (his own) he has used to back the films.
“Terry’s absolutely brilliant at what he does,” continues Howard, talking about the time he has spent observing Stone at work. “In
three months I’ve virtually got a postgraduate education in how to make films.”
And the respect is mutual, with Stone describing Howard’s script as “fantastic” and waxing lyrical about his attitude on set.
“The thing I like is that Chris is just one of the boys,” he says. “Whether he’s talking to a banker or someone like me, he gets on with everyone.”
It will come as a relief to his new partners at Linklaters that Howard is keen to stress that his second career as a budding Scorsese will not see him take his eye off the ball when it comes to law. But with the recent Government decision to cut funding to the UK Film Council, independent companies such as Gateway could be under threat without more people like Howard getting involved.
“People really want to invest in good British films,” insists Howard. “One of the interesting things for me is that everybody that I’ve shown Weighed In to has loved it and wants to get involved.”
He understandably will not be drawn on whether he has found fellow investors among his colleagues in the legal profession, but if Howard’s experience is anything to go by, it might not be long before more lawyers are rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars.