Director John Jencks and producer Jay Taylor’s UK production and finance company, Electric Shadow Company, has an ambitious roster. Titles include the production of Rupert Sanders’ reimagining of James O’Barr’s comic The crowwith Bill Skarsgard and FKA Twigs — which FilmNation Entertainment is presenting to buyers at Cannes — plus a slew of projects in development, including zoo director Colin McIvor old wine.
Jencks (President) and Taylor (CEO) established Electric Shadow Company for 17 years. They met as teenagers, moving in the same social circles in West London. Jencks went to study film at the New York Film Academy, while Taylor produced the zeitgeisty Channel 4 music show popmonde, before moving on to feature films, working for The Weinstein Company and Working Title. Jencks returned from the United States and the couple reconnected and made a short film The vicious circle of success. In 2005 they formed their own team, Sane and Diddly, alongside producer Alexa Seligman (who later left the company in 2017), renamed Electric Shadow Company in 2008.
“We were pretty good at production, we had that experience. But the other side of the business, the marketing side, we weren’t particularly aware of,” says Taylor. They cut their teeth on a self-funded feature The foldwhich Jencks directed, before using gap funding to do Amy Heckerling’s 2012 horror comedy vampire. Features including The Saint, love me like you do and Swallows and Amazons monitoring.
Squaring the cube
The hippopotamus – based on Stephen Fry’s comic novel and starring Roger Allam – had the makings of the outfit’s breakthrough project, with UK distributor Metrodome attached, until, that is, distributor goes into administration, leaving Jencks and Taylor to release the feature themselves.
To continue bringing in money, the company launched J Cubed Film Finance, along with film financier Joe Simpson and a variety of senior lenders. Through this, Jencks and Taylor began providing feature films with gap financing. This model was a success, J Cubed closed more than 30 deals in the space of 18 months, for titles such as out of the blue, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan and Akimbo Firearms. Through Electric Shadow Company, the duo also helped fund Philip Barantini’s recent Bafta contender. Boiling point.
But Electric Shadow Company had its own creative itch that required scratching. “We started thinking, ‘We’re doing all this work to get other people’s movies made, and we’re not doing anything ourselves,'” Jencks recalls. The company has therefore relaunched with renewed interest in internal development and is focusing on acquiring the UK rights to projects in which the company is involved. Two new hires were made to reflect the refresh of the company, taking the total number of time employees to six.
Isabel Freer is responsible for the development of all television and documentary feature films, and is also responsible for sourcing new intellectual properties to develop, finance and produce. Freer’s previous credits include as co-producer on Nick Hamm The tripand as an executive on The Uncertain Kingdom, a feature development fund launched by Jencks.
Kwesi Dickson joined as head of production finance, after working as a producer on MJ Bassett’s Thug and Magnus Martens SAS: Red noticeboth produced by the executives of Electric Shadow Company.
The crow is currently in pre-production, while old wine is being developed with Northern Ireland Screen. The family comedy, based on a true story, is set in 1842 in a remote Scottish village, where future prosperity rests on an old mare named Beeswing who won the Ascot race. Production on the feature film – co-written by Georgia Goggin, producer of Pretty red dress — should start at the end of the year.
Documentaries are another key focus, with two co-productions in the works with UK documentary company Rogan Productions, titled Original sin and Hollywood Project.
“I don’t think there’s just one type of Electric Shadow project,” says Jencks. “If it’s a project we’ve been involved with from the very beginning, it has to work on many levels. I don’t think we’d ever make a fast furious purely visceral film, but we would never make the most talkative French arthouse film either. The joy of cinema is that it offers a vast expanse of human experience.