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Sarah Brocklehurst interviewed in Variety

Sarah Brocklehurst in Variety

Sarah Brocklehurst interviewed in Variety

‘The Outrun’ Producer Sarah Brocklehurst on Her Long Journey Bringing Amy Liptrot’s Memoir to the Big Screen

By Alex Ritman


“The Outrun,” the adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s deeply raw and lyrical 2016 memoir about addiction, recovery and nature, premiered in Sundance this year to stellar reviews, with many awards prophets already suggesting that the film could take Saoirse Ronan — who stars in and produces the film — back to the Oscars in 2025. 

For producer Sarah Brocklehurst, the Sundance premiere also marked something of an enjoyable full circle, landing almost five years to the day after the Sundance 2019 debut of “Animals.” The film, which screens at the Berlin Film Festival, also marks the first feature from her Brock Media banner.

“Animals,” based on Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel about hedonism and friendship (described as a “Withnail for Girls”) and starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, may not have been Brocklehurst’s debut film (that was 2012’s “Black Pond”), but she claims it was a career game-changer. “It proved to myself and probably to others that I was a producer who could get things made,” she says, adding that, without backing from any public funds in the U.K., she had to go out internationally to find co-production support.

“Animals” — directed by Sophie Hyde (behind recent hit “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”) — also launched as Brocklehurst was several years into developing “The Outrun,” having “fallen in love” with Liptrot’s writing and just knowing that there “was an epic, visceral film in there.” Upon reading the book, she had immediately written a “love letter” to the author, starting a long process of relationship-building. But while other producers were also interested in adapting the work, she had help on her side: Liptrot knew Unsworth. 

The release of “Animals” certainly helped speed things along, and the following year another game-changing moment arrived when then BBC Film head Rose Garnett introduced Brocklehurst to Ronan — who had read and loved “The Outrun” independently — plus her partner, the “Slow Horses” actor Jack Lowden, and producer Dominic Norris (Lowden and Norris had recently formed Arcade Pictures, with Ronan joining as director in 2021). They wanted to produce the project. Crucially, Ronan also wanted to play Liptrot. 

“And it sort of took off after that,” says Brocklehurst, who then approached German filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt to direct, “waiting patiently” until she had finished the Netflix feature “The Unforgivable” and was able read “The Outrun” herself. 

While the group’s shared passion for the source material and project helped drive development of “The Outrun” forward (filming commenced in Orkney in late 2022, shooting in Liptrot’s own house), around the same time Brocklehurst launched Brock Media. 

“The reality is that it’s not sustainable to produce an independent film every few years,” she says, pointing to a “really challenging existence” for independent producers. Aiming high, she wanted to create a company that would allow for growth beyond just film, with TV being a major focus. Having used the money from a 2020 British Film Institute Vision Award for emerging producers to start developing a slate of mostly small screen projects, she went shopping for a deal, with BBC Studios coming in in 2021 with the offer of a partnership, a deal she admits was “quite frankly, life-changing.” Brock Media was officially announced in January 2022.

For Ronan and Lowden, “The Outrun” ended up being their solitary production for Arcade Pictures, the two having stepped down from the banner earlier this year. But for Brock Media it’s just the beginning. 

The company has already released two podcast anthology series, with its first TV slate due to launch soon and eyeing commissions. The likes of Nick Mohammed (“Ted Lasso”), Constance Cheng (“The Great”), Thaddea Graham (“Sex Education”), Harry Trevaldwyn (“10 Percent”) are among the list of collaborators. 

Brocklehurst says she’s hoping to use the audio side of Brock Media as a “runway for talent,” helping give new writers the opportunity to hone their skills without the same level of pressure as TV. She also wants Brock Media to become a platform that helps “redress the lack of representation” for East Asian talent in the U.K. (Brocklehurst is half-Chinese, half-British). And with both “Animals” and “The Outrun” as its flag-bearers for literary adaptations, she’s hoping it can be a “tested home” for authors. 

There’s plenty on the horizon and plenty of work to be done, including furnishing a brand new office in London’s busy Charlotte Street, Brock Media having outgrown its previous premises (it now has seven full-time staff members).

And then there’s the release of “The Outrun.” While StudioCanal has rights to the feature for the U.K., France and Germany, Filmcoopi for Switzerland and Cineart for Benelux, and Sony’s Stage 6 having most other international territories, a U.S. sale is yet to be finalized. Given the acclaim from Sundance, the upcoming Berlinale bow and very early awards season buzz for Ronan, that shouldn’t be too far behind.