Children’s Film – Adapt or Kill? – Report

Posted on: Friday 03 July 2015 6:37am by Danny Stack


  • Family films are becoming a growing priority
  • Finance is challenging
  • There is hope!


Since last year’s session about UK family films (and the lack thereof), not one but two UK films have found success at the box office: Paddington and Shaun The Sheep. But these are adaptations or based on pre-existing material. What about original family films? Have they any hope of getting made? Phil Parker led a panel comprising of Anne Brogan (Kindle Entertainment), Tim Clague (Nelson Nutmeg Pictures) and Joe Naftalin (Studio Canal) to find out.

For Studio Canal, Joe explained that family films have become a growing priority. They fully financed Paddington, and helped pave the way for Shaun The Sheep. They’re keen on UK/European family films with global appeal. Paddington made $260m worldwide (with a budget of $60m), while Shaun has made $70m worldwide to-date.

Anne from Kindle has three family films on her slate. They’re all book adaptations, and she explained why: the books have a pre-existing audience. However, film finance is just as tricky for an adaptation as it is for an original idea. It’s like a giant game of Jenga: you take away one piece, and the rest falls apart. One of their adaptations – White Boots by Noel Streatfield – has been in development for 6 years. It started out as a one-off TV project but there aren’t really any slots for that kind of film so they switched to feature. But it’s proving to be a tough job to convince the industry to push the project forward.

Tim Clague on the other hand has no such time for long years of development. ‘Get out there and just do it!’ he cried. He made Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? – an original idea, not an adaptation – by using all his filmmaking wit and savvy, alongside Danny Stack (um, that’s me, dear reader!). We wrote, produced and directed the film, Coen Brothers style, but on a micro budget. Find out more about the film here. Tim encouraged everyone in the audience with similar sensibilities to start their film TODAY, and let momentum and ‘brave naivety’ do the rest. Indeed, Tim thinks there’s no reason why a UK family film culture can’t develop, especially if we embrace a low budget mentality. There certainly are no technical barriers to stop us, and the financial barriers aren’t insurmountable (or as daunting as you may think).

Joe and Anne agreed – we have great talent and a cultural heritage to pull from – but they had slightly more pragmatic advice on the production and business aspects. But the end message was positive: THERE IS HOPE for UK family films.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get them made!

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Danny Stack

About the author

Danny Stack

Nelson Nutmeg Pictures, Screenwriter

Danny’s a prolific writer in the kids’ genre and has written for the new Thunderbirds Are Go! for CiTV. He has co-written/produced/directed the live-action family film Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? alongside Tim Clague. Danny is known for his popular blog, Scriptwriting In The UK, which inspired him to set up the… Read more