The producers of the film 'Toilers of the Sea' were left "incredibly surprised" by comments made in the States yesterday by the President of the Committee for Economic Development.
Deputy Neil Inder, who was facing questions about his Committee's decision not to provide financial backing for the film to be produced in Guernsey, told the States' Assembly that there had been no direct correspondence between the film's producers and his Committee.
But a short time later, the producers of the film, Dave Shanks and Joy Mellins, told Express they had been "in constant contact" with the Committee.
Pictured: Committee for Economic Development President, Deputy Neil Inder, responded to questions about the film production in yesterday's States' meeting.
Deputy Inder told States' members: "All this Committee has seen is various emails…we had an email that was sent to all States' members and I have been copied into an email which went directly to the Policy & Resources Committee."
Mr Shanks and Ms Mellins refuted Deputy Inder's claim.
"We have been in constant contact with the Committee for Economic Development, particularly over the last three weeks, but the only response we receive is that their situation remains unchanged from their initial response 18 months ago," said Ms Mellins.
"While we appreciate that, we have stated multiple times that our situation has changed significantly and that the best way forward would be an opportunity to redo our presentation to the Committee, but we have received no response to this suggestion."
Mr Shanks and Ms Mellins said they have secured interest from private funders in Guernsey.
"Initially, our plan was to raise a large sum privately and then ask the States of Guernsey for a top up investment," said Mr Shanks.
"We have secured a large sum through verbal commitments. However, the private investors have said - after what happened with the Potato Peel film - that they want the States to take the lead before they make their investments.
"So we went to the States, we told them that we have all the verbal commitments from private investors, and we stressed that we were only asking for a letter of commitment from the States before we call in the funds."
Pictured: Producers Joy Mellins and Dave Shanks said they have been trying to secure production of the film in Guernsey for three and a half years.
Ms Mellins added: "We gave the States a ballpark figure and we guaranteed that we would spend 100% of their investment on island so that it is fed back directly into the local economy.
"The States would have been in first position to get their investment returned, at 120%, and then would also receive a proportionate share of 60% of the profits from the film once it became profitable. To us, it seemed like it should be a no-brainer for the States."
At yesterday's States' meeting, Deputy Gavin St Pier asked Deputy Inder whether he agreed that "if the film can secure production finance, from whatever source...the production of that film would be a considerable injection directly into the economy in terms of travel, hospitality and supporting trades and industries".
Deputy St Pier continued: "Is it part of his [Deputy Inder’s] Committee’s role, under its mandate, to do what it can to secure production of the film in the island?"
Deputy Inder said that Deputy St Pier's question was "difficult to answer".
"In the main, it is a fact that any production activity of anything on the island benefits the island," said Deputy Inder. "But until the Committee has had a formal request for a meeting, we really are shouting in the air here at the moment."
Pictured: Deputy Gavin St Pier asked Deputy Neil Inder questions to find out more information about the States' position on attempts by producers of 'Toilers of the Sea' to shoot in Guernsey.
Mr Shanks and Ms Mellins said they had made "multiple requests" for a meeting with Deputy Inder's Committee but had received no response.
"The only response we have had is a copy of the letter which we have already seen, stating that the position of the Committee has remained unchanged," said Ms Mellins.
They said they were "extremely disappointed" that the Committee was not engaging with them or supporting the production of the film locally.
"The Bailiwick of Guernsey is the natural home of 'Toilers of the Sea' and we want to honour that," said Ms Mellins.
"We have been trying for three and a half years to secure the production of this film in Guernsey and now we have some very serious decisions about making the film somewhere else, although we both want it to be in Guernsey."
Mr Shanks was born and raised in Guernsey. His sister still lives locally. His father, Ernest Shanks, was Deputy Bailiff.
"This film deserves to be made locally and we will go all out to try to make that happen," said Mr Shanks.
"I am so disappointed. This deserves to be made and we want to make it. If we have to make it somewhere else, it will be with very heavy hearts."
Pictured: David Shanks said that making the film locally would also result in film props being donated to Castle Cornet for an exhibition.
Ms Mellins said she was trying to remain optimistic.
"The dream is to make this film in Guernsey," she said. "I am keeping a little bit of hope that perhaps the private investors who were waiting for a commitment from the States will decide to go ahead regardless.
"It is important to stress that we will be spending the money wherever it is raised. If we have to raise it elsewhere then it will have to be spent elsewhere.
"We are now in a position where we will have to be looking at other locations from next week."
Mr Shanks said that there would be multiple benefits of filming locally.
"Aside from the direct financial benefit, it would also benefit the future of tourism in the island," he said.
"The film will essentially be a 100-minute-long advertisement for Guernsey. The entire point of it would be to make Guernsey look beautiful, to show off its rugged coastline and to showcase the very best of the island.
"We have expressed that we would be willing to provide props to Castle Cornet for an exhibition and there could be local tours of where the film was made. You only need to look at how Jersey is still benefitting from Bergerac 30 years later to see the potential for Guernsey."
Pictured: Toilers of the Sea was written by Victor Hugo and dedicated to Guernsey, where he spent 15 years in exile.
In the States’ meeting, Deputy Yvonne Burford asked whether Deputy Inder’s Committee had undertaken "an economic analysis of what benefit supporting this film financially could have for the island".
In reply, Deputy Inder said that his Committee had "received a proposal [from the producers] in 2021" and "met with the team" at that time.
"Subsequent to that…we have had no formal proposal as to what the production team, acting in their capacity as a professional body, actually want to do," he said.
"We are really talking about stuff we’ve seen off emails via social media. Those are the facts."
Mr Shanks and Ms Mellins said they have guaranteed that any investment from the States would be spent locally.
Deputy St Pier asked whether the Guernsey Investment Fund could establish a "film fund cell" in the same way it had "recently incorporated an Alderney cell and a Sark cell".
Deputy St Pier continued: "In light of this, will the Committee engage with and encourage the Policy & Resources Committee to pursue that route in order that there would be a clear path for this film and its producers to secure investment finance, while also securing investment in economic opportunities for the island?"
In reply, Deputy Inder said that the Guernsey Investment Fund was an "entirely independent board".
"I have no idea because there has been no proposition since the last letter that we have responded to. We have had no formal background as to what this production group wants to do," he said.
Pictured: Deputy Yvonne Burford wanted to know if Deputy Neil Inder's Committee had carried out an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of supporting the film financially.
Mr Shanks said he was confused by Deputy Inder’s comments in the States.
"We find it very hard to reconcile what Deputy Inder said with the facts as we know them," said Mr Shanks.
Ms Mellins added: "We have had a huge amount of support from islanders who have put a lot of time into helping secure the production of this film in Guernsey, including work from some deputies behind the scenes, but it hasn’t paid off.
"I would say again that, to us, this proposition really is a no-brainer.
"We have verbal commitments from private investors. We have interest from Sky and Sony. We have an Oscar-nominated composer. We have a crew.
"We simply cannot sit on this because we have a responsibility to those people.
"It is my sincere hope that the private investors in Guernsey will choose to move forward without the States and prove the States wrong."
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