If it hadn’t been for working for legendary producer Michael Kuhn, Oliver probably wouldn’t have followed a career in production. He thought producers got a very raw deal, soaking up the stress and anxiety of filmmaking, but at Kuhn’s Qwerty, he realised that being a producer was about making the decision to fight for particular stories, talent and artists to be presented to their audiences, and came to see a great deal of honour in that battle. While working on the development and production of films like Florence Foster Jenkins, he learned that being at the heart of the often complicated, sometimes fractious but essential meeting of art and business in filmmaking was, for him, the most compelling place to be.
Oliver is drawn to the metaphorical possibilities of movies, where big ideas are communicated through the escapism of cinema, and named his company Escape Plan accordingly. Fellow Breakthrough Brit Rose Glass’s Saint Maud was the company’s first feature. Oliver and producing partner Andrea Cornwell secured its finance from Film4 and the BFI and launched the film, with sales agent Protagonist, at Midnight Madness at Toronto, where it immediately sold-out worldwide. Oliver describes the set as ‘very happy’ and feels that the mix of experienced and first-time filmmakers made for such a creative and successful shoot.
Oliver is keen for his production company to look to the gaming industry, too, viewing it as an exciting arena that naturally crosses over with cinema in its scripting, casting and conceptual work. He hopes that BAFTA will help him seek out these opportunities. In the meantime, he is in development on Rose Glass’s next project and is financing another debut feature, The Origin, from stand-out writer Ruth Greenberg and visionary director Andrew Cumming.