Asset Register Entry: 12-7-18
After achieving very real success with NIGHTHAWKS, both in the UK and overseas, Paul Hallam, Ron Peck and Patsy Nightingale wanted to work together again, but in a more structured way that allowed each of us to develop as a writer, director and producer. We felt we functioned well together as a team and we enjoyed working with each other. Two partnerships were formed to facilitate a more formal professional relationship: N4 Film Productions and Underworld Films.
N4 was set up for a project initially entitled ACTORS, which has its own history, given in the entry for that project in the Asset Register.
Underworld was set up specifically for CLEVELAND STREET, which was developed 1981-1984. Our roles on this project were very clear from the start, with Paul Hallam writing the screenplay and RLP and Patsy Nightingale put on retainers as prospective director and producer respectively.
The idea for the project was Paul’s and focused on the 1889 scandal that broke when it was discovered that a house in Cleveland Street, central London, was being run as a brothel where young male post office workers, soldiers and others were servicing London’s high society. The script focused especially on the boys, on the policeman surveilling the brothel and his relationship to one particular boy, and on the effect of it all on the policeman’s family life.
As well as presenting the challenge of a period film, the story encompassed a very large cast of characters from all walks of life and society and a wide range of settings and scenes that included the estates of the aristocracy, courtrooms, the London docks, a public swimming baths, press offices and the Cleveland Street house itself.
The subject was still controversial enough to grab attention, and there were striking parallels with contemporary scandals breaking in the news, like the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal in Belfast, at around the time the project was being put about. The script dramatized a very wide social panorama of English life of the time with a focus on class and homosexuality and followed how the scandal affected everybody differently.
The project received Development Loans from the NFDF (see below) and Underworld took out an option on Montgomery Hyde’s book, The Cleveland Street Scandal, so that Paul could draw on its research freely. Paul met with Hyde and had access to his source material, of which there was a lot. He also undertook his own further researches, which he detailed in an account to the NFDF (see below).
At least two drafts of the script were written and right from the start we tried to interest the BFI (as well as Channel 4 and NFDF/NFFC) as potential backers of an actual production. It needed a combination of at least two of these to get the project moving.
The problem of the scale of budget deemed necessary to make a historical film like this was raised repeatedly, though that did not deter interest. BFI support was seen as a vital production component given the subject matter but the funds even potentially available from there were always going to be very small, which was why we needed BFI to join up with C4 or NFFC, or both, to drive the project forward.
In the event, the project did not really clear this first hurdle.
The effort on the project slowly petered out for lack of strong commitments for production from any of the above bodies, without which we were not in a strong enough position to try to find matching funds from the commercial film industry.
Possibly, as a team, we were seen as too inexperienced to handle a film on such a scale by production financiers, though I don’t think this was ever stated. But in any case I think further development of the project would almost certainly have made it more manageable and do-able. Solutions would and could have been found to make the film on a modest budget. There were plenty of examples to learn from.
The BFI and C4 had co-produced Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract in 1982 on a budget (according to IMDB) of just £320,000. This too was a historical picture though very contained compared to the panoramic range of CLEVELAND STREET. A more relevant and useful precedent was perhaps Kevin Brownlow’s Winstanley, also made by BFI, in 1975, which, despite an even tinier budget, was still made on some considerable scale. Another example for comparison was Roberto Rossellini’s The Taking of Power by Louis XIV made on 16mm in 1966. And later, Eric Rohmer found ingenious solutions for dramatizing history on a small budget in his 2001 film about the French Revolution, The Lady & the Duke.
For whatever reason, the project was not developed further and, so far as I know, no other film or television production was ever made on the Cleveland Street scandal.
The timeline for Project Development below is as accurate as I can make it but Patsy, as producer, would have held some of the key documentation that could probably provide some more precise dates. Paul’s own archive (also deposited with Bishopsgate) will include a lot of additional material on the project.
Preliminary Treatment by Paul Hallam
NFDF agrees to back development of the project. It invests an initial £5,000 to cover writing of a more detailed Treatment or a First Draft Screenplay, some research and also provide small retainers for RLP & Patsy Nightingale.
Underworld Films Partnership is set up for the project (RLP, PH, PN).
There is reference to a March 1982 Treatment which is not filed here, though there are extensive and detailed notes on the project by Paul, with the same date, filed under ‘Development/Legal Correspondence’ as part of a further NFDF application.
NFDF later backs a Second Draft Screenplay.
Montgomery Hyde’s 1976 book, The Cleveland Street Scandal, is optioned.
Accounting records show moneys received for the project to date as £13,440-80 and notes that £2,250-00 is still due.
Script Draft 2 is completed.
Critiques from C4 (Walter Donohue) & BFI (Peter Sainsbury) follow, with Sainsbury seemingly very conflicted about the project. There is considerable back and forth between us, Donohue and Sainsbury.
It all takes time. There was the growing pressure of the option running out on Montgomery Hyde’s book and money for us all to keep working on the project simply dries up… I had also run out of funds on CITIES NUMBERS NIGHTS, building up huge personal debts because of that too, and had to take on outside employment as an assistant director, working for several months in late 1983 on James Ivory’s The Bostonians. But this particular job, on quite a large scale historical film, I felt, would be good preparation for CLEVELAND STREET.
As I recall, no finance was ever raised for Draft 3. Peter Sainsbury’s comments on Draft 2 outlined the central dilemma of how so big a period film could be made with the kind of resources potentially available. He suggested major changes to reduce the budget and concentrate the drama more tightly but there was no money to pay for this. Outside of C4, any other television support was considered unlikely, given the subject-matter, and we weren’t making any headway with C4 either.
There was a feeling that, without Sainsbury at the BFI coming fully on board, the project lacked a strong and experienced producer behind it. Patsy was starting a family and able to commit increasingly limited time to the project and she had no capital resources of her own as a producer to put into it. She put as much pressure as she could on Sainsbury to come in.
The original idea of the partnership – that Paul be the writer, RLP the director and Patsy the producer – dividing our roles to accomplish more and pursue the directions we most wanted to follow – was not in the end financially sustainable without a production.
In the development phase of a project only the writer receives substantial payments and RLP and Patsy couldn’t survive on just retainers. And ultimately the writer’s money also ran out.
More than a year after Draft 2 was completed nothing had been achieved by way of any concrete moves towards production or further development. Ron, Paul and Patsy agreed that Paul would now independently go outside the partnership to try to set up the project in any way possible, even if it meant RLP and Patsy would not necessarily be involved. By this time, following on from the lack of progress with ACTORS/CHEAP SENTIMENT/CHILD’S PLAY as well, there was deep frustration all-round within the partnership and serious worries about simple financial survival.
By April 1984, with a parallel stalling on CITIES NUMBERS NIGHTS, I began starting work on what was in the end to become EMPIRE STATE, receiving modest support for some video development from BFI Production, and later in the same year made the short film satire WHAT CAN I DO WITH A MALE NUDE? with producer James Mackay.
I think it was soon after this that Paul left to spend time in America. The partnership sadly hadn’t worked. No projects were actually produced through it. Patsy became more taken up with a growing family (she was to have four children) and later gave up film production altogether for teaching. Paul and I worked together professionally only once more, when he assisted on the script for STRIP JACK NAKED, but we each individually continued to pursue new independent film projects, and, 35 years later, still do.
We did work together on SOHO, around 1990, but this was much more a home movie, made as a record of Paul’s Soho apartment in Rupert Street, just before he had to vacate it, due to the redevelopment of the building.
Although Patsy Nightingale, Paul Hallam and I agreed 31-12-84 that Paul would be free to go out independently with the script, NFDF would have retained copyright until the development loan was repaid, with interest.
On other projects developed with NFDF support through Team Pictures (CITIES NUMBERS NIGHTS, BODY LANGUAGE), which also were not made, copyright has returned to NFDF. I don’t think any similarly formal relinquishing of rights was made by Underworld Films with CLEVELAND STREET.
All materials are now archived at the Bishopsgate Institute.
Script Draft 2 (September 1983)
by Paul Hallam
(clean copy)(178 pages)
Notes on Draft 2 (RLP, 28-11-83)
Notes on Draft 2 (?)(Peter Sainsbury/BFI Production)(undated)
Notes minuted from C4 meeting? Walter Donohue? (undated)
Correspondence – Legal
Correspondence – Production
Outline & Notes (March 1981)
Notes on Treatment (undated)
Handwritten Notes (undated)
Leaflet on Porchester Turkish Baths
Notes by RLP on:
The Cleveland Street Scandal – Montgomery Hyde
The English Constitution – Walter Bagehot
1889 letter on the scandal by George Bernard Shaw
NFDF Minutes & Correspondence
Partnership Agreement (Underworld Films)
Paul Hallam, Ron Peck, Patsy Nightingale
Draft Agreement only
Harford Montgomery Hyde, Harford Productions Ltd, Paul
Hallam, Ron Peck, Patsy Nightingale
Underworld Films, Paul Hallam
(copy only, signed)
Supplement to 10-9-81 Assignment
Underworld Films, National Film Development Fund
(copy only, signed)
Statement of Accounts (Patsy?)
Memo to RLP & Patsy from Paul re-draft agreement
Internal Agreement (Underworld)
There are no Shelf Files or Computer Files for this project.
by Ron Peck