This year the Screen Nation Vanguard in Production Award will be presented to British Jamaican film producer Paul Bucknor, co-producer of the iconic British comedy blockbuster ‘The Full Monty’. Bucknor has solidified his international reputation as one of the leading Black film producers.
British Jamaican, Paul Bucknor is an enigmatic individual who in the early 80’s was working as an assistant photographer while studying acting at London’s Riverside Studios. There, he had a chance meeting the writer Samuel Beckett that would rouse his interest in artistic expression. Paul started organizing huge warehouse parties in central London, giving several local painters and video artists a place to show their work. Around that time Paul considered becoming a fine artist and was part of the movement that would later be labelled ‘Brit Art’.
However, his passion for movies led him to the film industry and in the mid-1980’s he began sourcing film projects for pre-sales to the Cecchi Gori group in Italy. Realising the screenplay was where it all starts; in ‘88 he enrolled for a BA in English Literature at the University of London. During his time at college he became the European agent for Marubeni Corporation, sourcing ballets, operas, concerts and popular music material for the Japanese market. In1990, Paul’s first screenplay, Acid House, a chronicle of the British rave scene, was optioned by producer. Michael White; Electric Pictures in LA joined as co-producer and immediately went bankrupt, sucking the film project down with it.
In 1991, Paul founded and operated Black Triangle Communications programming the first Black Triangle Film Festival at the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, London. In 1993, Paul assembled a consortium and bought the lease for the Electric Cinema. He was the CEO of the newco and programmed all the films there. In 1995, while working at the Electric Cinema, he got the idea for what would eventually become The Full Monty. Although he is credited as the co-producer, he holds the original copyright for both the film and the Broadway Musical. “I was excited by the elements and wanted to see the project through to realization. I wanted to learn how to produce a film so I cut the deal with Columbia Pictures to co-produce.” The picture would eventually be made with 20th Century Fox and went on to make over $250m and win an Oscar.
It was on the heels of the success of The Full Monty that Paul went to stay in Los Angeles in 1998. “The Academy Awards ceremony is the smoothest production I’ve ever seen.” When some New Zealand playwrights sued 20th Century Fox for US$200 million for plagiarism. Paul emerged as the ‘author’, becoming a Hollywood curiosity and most doors were suddenly open to him. After the plagiarism lawsuit was settled, Paul enlisted a prominent lawyer/agent and did the Hollywood rounds, meeting with many of Hollywood’s famous luminaries. He bought a house in the Hollywood Hills and set about writing, moving between homes in LA, London and Jamaica. After 18 months, he decided to settle in Jamaica and submerge himself in digital filmmaking. In 2001, he produced 4 short AIDS awareness films in Kingston for an NGO working with disaffected teens living in the Kingston ghettos.
In 2003, Paul founded Firefly Films in Kingston, and built Firefly Studios in the Blue Mountains for post-production. He mustered together a crew from the nascent music video industry to produce Sweet Jamaica. In 2005 he co-founded the annual Flashpoint Film Festival with Greer Anne Saulter and Chris Blackwell to focus on emerging talent form the Caribbean region. It rapidly became Jamaica’s premier festival cultivating a new generation of local filmmakers.
Paul has totally embraced the new HD format. In 2005, Paul produced 3 short films for the medium: Forward, written and directed by 21-year-old rookie filmmaker Nile Saulter, Bad Lucky, written and directed by 26-year-old first time director Joel Burke, and Twang!, the first feature film written and directed by 22-year-old LA Film School graduate, Storm. Goathead previewed at the inaugural Flashpoint Film Festival and is yet to be released.
In late 2006, Paul wrote and directed his latest feature film Pothole, a comedy thriller set in Jamaica and London. In 2007 he produced 2 feature films, Better Mus’ Come, and The Candy Shop. All 3 films are scheduled to premiere at the next Flashpoint Film Festival.
Producing for Firefly Films Paul has worn several hats including writer, director and editor on several shorts and 4 feature films; Sweet Jamaica, No Good Friends, Candy Shop and Better Mus’ Come, which has been a tremendous success in Jamaica. Better Mus’ Come has since won several audience awards at international film festivals and is due to be released in UK February 2013. Paul is preparing to release the films in Jamaica and is in pre-production as producer/director on supernatural thriller, The Woodz, set in Greater London, and SWAG set in Kingston, Jamaica.
Screen Nation is proud to have been associated with Paul Bucknor for over 20 years and especially proud to bestow upon him the inaugural Vanguard in Film Production Award for the leadership, vision and creative excellence he has shown over several decades in the film business.
We wish him well.
Official Betta Mus’ Come website
Betta Mus’ Come will premier in London & Birmingham as part of the Screen Nation International Film Festival