UK start-up success story becomes Hollywood movie
The glorious rags to riches tale of a UK start-up has caught the cold, beady eye of Hollywood and been transformed into a well-polished and formulaic movie.
Charon Ferries, a London-based payments firm, is the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Mark and Michelle Morrison. (Recently married, and still happy. Give it a few more months – that will soon change.)
The company has seen massive growth thanks to funding, support from an accelerator, a good product, and the ability to write press releases that don’t annoy the hell out of journalists.
In an exclusive interview with Banking Technology, Michelle explains what happened: “I was stunned to receive a phone call from an incredibly exuberant American PR executive. At first I thought they were on drugs as no one I have ever met is that happy.
“Then I had a sneaking feeling it was a prank call by one of our unfunny fintech colleagues. You know the type, the kind of businessman who makes that same joke at a conference about a new payments app means his wife can shop more.
“Anyway, after that awful notion was dispelled, Mark and myself were invited to a meeting with the famous Hollywood director Ron Howard.”
Mark adds: “We turned up at a posh hotel in London, and lo and behold, it was Mr Howard. It was for real. He was surrounded by more sycophants than Mariah Carey and that punctuation-posturing prat will.i.am combined. But Mr Howard was nice enough and expressed an interest in our success story. He sort of charmed us in that insincere manner developed from years of living in the unreal bubble of Hollywood. Oh… and the money on offer helped.”
After the usual negotiations and theatrics; the contract was signed, a script sorted, and the film is now ready for release.
In fact, Banking Technology was treated to a preview of the whole film – Love Pays. Yep, you can feel a sugar rush already.
As it is a Howard production… well… it’s OK. Facts are discarded like confetti at a Welsh wedding to drag every ounce of drama from every scene, and it all feels very safe and plodding. There is no energy or style as you may find in a Martin Scorsese, David Lynch or Coen Brothers’ movie.
Howard, as befits all his other movies, goes all out in the war to tug at your heart strings. This is no gentle plucking, this is the relentless and furious twanging of a banjo player on amphetamines.
Felicity Jones plays the part of Michelle, while Mark is represented by Channing Tatum. He received English pronunciation lessons from Dick Van Dyke to ensure an authentic London accent was retained. Despite being on screen for most of the time, and acting Tatum off the park, Jones received half his salary. Hooray for Hollywood.
The film charts their rise from humble beginnings – complete with an evil landlord and maudlin soundtrack. In reality, Mark and Michelle had their own home, worked in financial services and weren’t short of cash. But hey, this is Howard’s way.
As with any Hollywood story, every moment of emotion is overplayed. The couple argue and a chair is thrown. No one is truly enraged unless an item of furniture is hurled across a room. We know that.
After this bust-up, they kiss and make-up – a payments reconciliation if you like. Don’t get excited, you don’t see anything. The camera pans away from the bed to reveal an open window and a curtain blowing in the breeze. (No one in London leaves their window open at night. Not unless you want to wake up to an empty house or some maniac standing over your bed.)
After this drama, it follows the customary route of ups, downs, smiles and frowns. They face an evil regulator, evil payment rivals and an evil banker. Well, at least some reality is maintained with the last one.
We won’t ruin the ending, but it’s a Howard film. There won’t be anything shocking. The only surprise you’ll get is finding out what UK cinemas charge for popcorn and a soft drink.