From YouTube to big screen

Shooting starts on Svengali movie

Filming has started today on a new music-business comedy movie which began life as an internet viral.

Martin Freeman – about to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit – has signed up to star in Svengali, whose cast includes Sally Phillips, Boy George and Carl Barat.

The film began life in 2009, when actor Johnny Owen lost his production job with ITV and sank his savings into an internet comedy series, which attracted the attention of record company boss Alan McGee, who persuaded many of his acts to take part. The episodes debuted online last year.

Now the tale of Dixie, played by Owen, who leaves the Welsh Valleys for the bright lights of London intent on becoming the manager of the best band in the world, is to hit the big screen.

It is being made by a new production company, Root Films, set up by Owen with businessman Martin Root.

Freeman said: ‘A friend of mine told me about Svengali after about the third episode. When he’d described it I was actually annoyed that I hadn’t been asked to do it. I went home, watched the lot, and knew I was right to be annoyed. It was charming, sussed, and very funny.’

The film’s cast also includes stand-up Michael Smiley, This Is England 86 star Vicky McClure and Michelle Gomez, from Green Wing. It will be directed by music video director John Hardwick.

Here is one of the web episodes:

Published: 27 Feb 2012

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