Leading producers Two Rivers Media and Salon Pictures have announced Killing Escobar, a new theatrical documentary. For this feature-length film, the team secured exclusive access to the story of Peter McAleese, the Scottish mercenary and ex-SAS operative who was hired by a Colombian drug cartel to assassinate the world’s biggest drug baron, Pablo Escobar. The film has been commissioned by BBC Scotland and received major production investment from Amcomri Entertainment Inc member, Abacus Media Rights, who hold international distribution rights, and The National Lottery through Screen Scotland. Directed by award-winning filmmaker David Whitney, it will receive its world premiere at Glasgow Film Festival on 7 March, and its UK television premiere on the BBC Scotland channel later this year.
Killing Escobar - told in McAleese’s own words and featuring never-before-seen footage of his Colombian mission – reveals how McAleese’s violent upbringing in Glasgow, his training in the SAS and experience as a mercenary in Africa led him to take on this seemingly suicidal assignment.
Mick McAvoy, Head of Factual, Two Rivers Media, says: “At Two Rivers Media, we pride ourselves on bringing remarkable stories, told by the people who were at the centre of the action, to the screen. This film tells the unlikely tale of how a man from the East End of Glasgow was asked to bring-together a team of ex-special forces operatives to travel to the very heart of the criminal empire of the world’s most dangerous man in order to assassinate him. With no voiceover and by just using revealing interviews with Peter McAleese, some members of his team and even Escobar’s bodyguard, this film lets the people at the heart of the story give a unique and terrifying perspective into the murky world of mercenaries, cocaine wars and shows how violence can shape peoples’ lives. The Two Rivers’ team have an outstanding track record in human interest storytelling and we are extremely proud of what has been achieved with this film.”
Nick Taussig, Founder and Managing Director, Salon Pictures, comments: “When David first brought this film to us, we were determined to make it, as, beyond the compelling narrative of a small band of mercenaries trying to take down Pablo Escobar, was the great human story of an old soldier’s final reckoning with himself. David had the track record and pedigree to take this story on, and what a creative tour de force it has turned out to be.”
David Whitney, Director, Killing Escobar, adds: “From the moment I first met Peter McAleese, I wanted to tell his story. I feel incredibly fortunate that he entrusted me to make the film. The wealth of personal video archive and level of access we were able to obtain is the stuff of dreams for any filmmaker. When my editor and I sat and watched the footage that the men had filmed of their mission we were amazed by the breadth and quality; it was a goldmine! It’s been a long, difficult journey to get Killing Escobar to the screen, but I hope audiences will be as thrilled by this incredible true story as I was.”
KillingEscobar (1x90mins) also contains intimate archive from McAleese’s life as well as interviews with other key participants in the story, such as: fellow mercenary Dave Tomkins; DEA officers Javier Pena and Steve Murphy (the subjects of Netflix’s hit series Narcos); and McAleese’s Cali Cartel liaison Jorge Salcedo (whose experiences in Colombia also inspired the Netflix series). The film also explores McAleese’s extreme and often violent career, spanning 30 years of combat in the British SAS and as a mercenary on the battlefields of Africa. On the home-front, his personal life was equally chaotic with failed marriages, hard-drinking and a string of convictions. In 1989, just when he thought his fighting days were behind him, he was asked to take on a deadly mission that would provide the greatest challenge of his career. The infamous drug gang, the Cali Cartel, wanted him to lead a crack unit of British mercenaries to wipe out their arch enemy, Pablo Escobar, in the one place he thought he was safe: Hacienda Napoles, his heavily-guarded luxury retreat near Medellin. Killing Escobar reveals how this mission would reshape McAleese’s life forever.
Jonathan Ford, Managing Director, Abacus Media Rights, says: “This is a gripping documentary film which we are extremely pleased to be part of. Having previously worked with both Two Rivers and Salon Pictures before, we know that their special blend of high production values and in-depth research will deliver an exceptional feature documentary. We can’t wait to introduce what promises to be a fascinating telling of the Escobar story from a unique and first-hand perspective to our clients around the world.”
Tony Nellany, BBC Scotland Channel Manager & Commissioning Executive, adds: “Killing Escobar underpins the aim of the BBC Scotland channel to reflect not only Scotland to itself, but also the wider world to our audiences. This is an international story with strong links to Scotland and we’re delighted to work with industry partners, including Screen Scotland, to bring such a bold and ambitious production to both cinema and television screens. It has strong storytelling and a unique Scottish protagonist at its heart and will receive its UK television premier later this year on the BBC Scotland channel.”
Dani Carlaw, Screen Scotland’s Head of Unscripted, says: “It is fantastic to be supporting Killing Escobar, an edge-of-your-seat portrait of the extraordinary life of Peter McAleese, told with great depth and astonishing archive. Screen Scotland is also delighted that this film represents Two Rivers Media’s first completed theatrical feature documentary, a co-production with Salon Pictures. Glasgow Film Festival programme is always packed full of the highest quality films and premieres. It is a fitting platform for this film’s first outing.”
KillingEscobarwillreceiveitsworldpremiereatGlasgowFilmFestivalat4.15pmon7 March.Itisco-producedbyTwoRiversMediaandSalonPictures.CommissionedbyBBC Scotland, it has received major production investment from Abacus Media Rights and Screen Scotland. At BBC Scotland, the Commissioning Editor is Tony Nellany. Killing Escobar is directed by David Whitney; the Director of Photography is Julian Schwanitz; the Head of Production is Lucy Austen; Head of Legal is Ross Cowan; the Location AP is Kelly Machin; and the Executive Producers are Alan Clements and Mick McAvoy for Two Rivers Media, and Nick Taussig for Salon Pictures. Killing Escobar is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About Two Rivers
Two Rivers Media is one of the most ambitious new indies to launch onto the market in recent years. Founded by CEO Alan Clements, former Director of Content at STV Productions, and headquartered in Glasgow, Two Rivers aims to create compelling content in factual, factual entertainment, entertainment and scripted. This multi-genre company of scale to serve the Scottish, UK and international markets. Its creative team is lead by:
- ● Mick McAvoy, Head of Factual – former Head of Factual at STV Productions
- ● Mirella Breda, Head of Entertainment – most recently Managing Director of Initial andformerly Executive editor of BBC Entertainment commissioning.
- ● Lizi Wootton, Head of Popular Factual – most recently Acting Head of Features and seniorCommissioning Editor, Features at Channel 4.
- ● Lucy Bacon, Director of Unscripted Development – latterly Head of UK Factual Developmentat Warner Bros Television Production UK’s Wall to Wall Media.
- ● Marcus Wilson, Head of Drama – who came to Two Rivers from the acclaimed indie FiftyFathoms Productions.The company was launched in January 2019, its creation coinciding with Channel 4’s committed spend 50% of its programme budget outside London by 2023 and its plans to establish a Creative Cluster in Glasgow; the BBC’s commitment to spending 9% of its network budget in Scotland; and the ambitions of the Scottish Government and new agency Screen Scotland which was given additional funds of £10m to boost the sector. The company is backed by Noble Grossart and the Channel 4 Growth Fund.About Salon PicturesSalon is a dynamic, modern day, multi-disciplinary creator and producer of feature film, documentary, television and branded content. Award-winning and BAFTA-nominated producers Nick Taussig and Paul Van Carter founded Salon in 2013. With a focus on exceptional material, Salon is committed to a close creative relationship with talent, to develop and produce a portfolio of intelligent, moving and unique films and documentaries.Salon’s latest film, Stardust, which chronicles the young David Bowie’s first visit to America, world premiered at Tribeca 2020, followed by a global rollout. Its 2020 documentary, Audrey, about the life and work of Audrey Hepburn, was released through Universal Pictures; and A Space in Time, a candid, lyrical, intimate portrait of one family’s struggle to transcend disease, is set to be distributed by Bohemia Media in February 2021. Salon recently completed The Night Caller, a four-part true crime series for Sky, Sundance Now and Stan, depicting and exploring a killer’s harrowing legacy.Salon’s international partners include Netflix, Amazon, Lions Gate Films, Universal Pictures, BBC, Sky, Sundance Now, Entertainment One, Bleecker Street, Embankment Films, Film Constellation, XYZ Films, Independent Film Company, Cohen Media Group, Silver Reel, Head Gear Films, Quickfire Films, Piccadilly Pictures, Creativity Capital and Union Patriot Capital. Headquartered in London, the company has a presence at all major international film and documentary markets.About Abacus Media Rights (AMR) acquires and distributes a diverse slate of premium, multi-genre programming in the international market. At the same time, the company also works with producers to facilitate pre-sales and development finance as well as broadcaster commissions.
Embracing a fully transparent reporting ethos throughout, AMR focuses on building strong client
relationships and generating positive solutions at every stage of the process, from initial financing to worldwide broadcast in order to successfully deliver scripted and non-scripted entertainment that counts to a global audience. Abacus Media Rights is a member of the Amcomri Entertainment Inc.
Further details: www.abacusmediarights.com Twitter: @abacus_rights
About Screen Scotland
Screen Scotland is the dedicated partnership for screen in Scotland. Sitting within Creative Scotland, it is a partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council, working in close collaboration with the sector to ensure its success. With funding from Scottish Government and The National Lottery, Screen Scotland is driving the cultural, social and economic development of all aspects of the sector in Scotland, through enhanced funding, services and support.
About Glasgow Film Festival
Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) is one of the leading film festivals in the UK and run by Glasgow Film, a charity which also runs Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). GFF is made possible by support from Screen Scotland, the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery, Glasgow Life and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland
The 17th annual festival will run online from 24 February to 7 March 2021. Previous GFF guests include Richard Gere, Alan Rickman, Joss Whedon, Terry Gilliam, John C Reilly, Saoirse Ronan, Richard Dreyfuss, Karen Gillan, Jessie Buckley, Sir Michael Palin, Simon Pegg, Caitlin Moran, Jonathan Glazer, Richard Johnson, Gemma Arterton, Ben Wheatley, David Tennant, Cliff Curtis, David Robert Mitchell, Carol Morley, Gemma Jones, Jason Priestley, Neil Jordan, agnés b., Armando Iannucci, Jack O’Connell, Dexter Fletcher, Peter Mullan, George Sluizier, Peter Capaldi, Ty West, Richard Ayoade, David Dastmalchian, Eli Roth and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
The full programme will be launched on 14 January at www.glasgowfilm.org/festival with tickets on sale from 18 January at www.glasgowfilm.org.