The End of an Era

A feature story on movie producer Jeremy Bolt

All good things must come to an end. On January 27, the premiere of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter will mark the conclusion of a franchise known for its intensely gripping storylines, dramatic special effects, and its role in creative the ‘Undead’ phenomenon.

By Braydon Holmyard

One would think that a hard-working producer living in Hollywood would celebrate this moment with a night on the town, but that was not the case for this movie mastermind. Jeremy Bolt thought about how he was going to spend his special night, and it did not include a gourmet dish.

“To be honest, I’ll probably just have a couple of black coffees and a cigar. I doubt I’ll be able to eat anything, because I’ll be nervous.

The business brains behind the operation, Bolt is an independent producer who has created six films in the series over a 15-year span.

Bolt hails from London, England, but was born in the capital of Uganda, Kampala. It borders Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes. His career as an international producer took its first steps when he collaborated with his director, Paul Anderson, in 1992 – soon after, they would found Impact Pictures. Their idea was simple, and it worked.

“I said, ‘I've never produced and I’d like to produce.’ And he said, ‘I’ve never directed and I want to direct,’” Bolt explains. “Basically, we shook hands and two years later, we made our first film.”

It was the beginning of what has turned out to be a long and successful working relationship with Anderson. In reflection, Bolt remembers the reason they got together in the first place, and it was in large part because of his love for the all-time classic action film Die Hard.

Bolt and Anderson met roughly 18 months prior to the launch of their production company, Impact Pictures. On the recommendation of a mutual friend, the two creative minds were introduced because of their love for Die Hard and general fascination with the film industry.

“We met at a coffee shop in London and we got on and had similar tastes in film,” Bolt said. “At that point, the big movies forus were Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), The French Connection (1971), Apocalypse Now (1979). These are the films we talked about, along with Die Hard (1988), of course.”

At the time, Impact Pictures was a new business idea led by a couple of unproven movie buffs with gigantic aspirations. The talented duo's success and longevity in the industry is now paying dividends.

“In the old days, when we were beginning a film, Paul and I would drink a bottle of scotch or have endless cups of coffee and get inspired. Then he would write a script and I would give him notes,” Bolt recalls. “But now, 25 years on, we go for a walk along the beach in Malibu with our dogs and come up with stories and ideas.”

Bolt’s career may be headlined by Resident Evil, but it does not end there. In 1994, he released an action film featuring Jude Law, called Shopping. In 2008, he poured his love for car racing into his production of Death Race, a four-movie franchise with the latest edition scheduled for 2017. His job has taken him all over the world, with Canada’s major cities being some of his favourite places to shoot.

“We shot Resident Evil 2 in Toronto during the SARS crisis and the city was tremendously supportive,” Bolt said. “We actually managed to close the Bloor Bridge and we shot just in front of City Hall, which was remarkable. We are very fond of Toronto, we love the city and the people have been so tremendously supportive of Resident Evil.

Bolt also has fond memories of shooting Death Race in Montreal back in 2007, where he took over an old train factory and turned it into a racing circuit. This time around, the final chapter of Resident Evil brought him to Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. They turned out to be two beautiful cities deserving of the final film.

Even the challenges during the shoot ended up being uplifting.

“We were shooting in one location where there were baboons,” Bolt says, remembering the moment fondly. “At the end of the take, where you’re meant to believe you are in America, suddenly there’s a family of baboons. I just found that amusing, and these were some very friendly baboons. We had to be careful about things like that.”

One of the challenges Bolt has to handle on the business side of production is keeping the fans engaged at the end of a lengthy franchise. Sustaining and maintaining the audience and making them feel they are going to see something new in every movie is always his goal.

Fortunately for Bolt, he has the support he needs to successfully distribute the content he produces. For 15 years, Constantin Film, a German production and distribution company, has owned the rights to the series. He describes them as a filmmaker-friendly partner that supports his creativity. Sony Pictures has also been an advocate of Resident Evil and a major distribution partner.

The producer describes himself as “sixty percent creative and forty percent business. ”The way the movie has turned out is as good as he would have hoped, if not better. When post-production comes to an end and it is time to sit back and enjoy the show, Bolt believes this movie will speak for itself.

“I’m excited that it’s ending. I’m sad, but I’m very proud. We put so much effort into this film, because it is the last one. I’m just pleased that it's paid off. I can honestly say this is the best film of the franchise.”

He describes his newest movie as being edgier and grittier than the previous two, with more plot twists and turns. There were more scenes shot on location rather than in studio to make it feel even more real. He knows he has done everything he can to end on a high note. More importantly, he has lived up to the high expectations he sets out for himself every time he creates a movie.

“I have one belief which I try to honour on every film, which is: make sure you’ve done everything you possibly could do to make sure it is the best film it could be. And then you just have to leave it to fate.”

It will be an emotional time for Bolt when his most successful franchise – a series that has generated more than one billion dollars in revenue – comes to an end. At the end of January, one chapter ends, but another begins. He thinks about what he hopes Resident Evil fans will feel after the very last scene of the series. In his usual full voice, he can hardly get the words out before he chuckles.

“I hope they want more.”