Merchant Ivory's production deal with Disney also envisioned Merchant Ivory films directed and scripted by people other than Ivory and Jhabvala; the first of these was Feast of July, produced by Merchant on an $8 million budget and released by Disney's Buena Vista/Touchstone Pictures in 1995. It is taken from the 1954 novel by H.E. Bates, one of England's most prolific modern writers and a novelist often compared to Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence. Like many other Bates novels, Feast of July is set in the turn-of-the-century English Midlands, a rural region that by then had become industrialized. It is an austere, foreboding novel that has now, with a faithful screenplay by Christopher Neame and skillful direction by Christopher Menaul, become an austere, foreboding film. The picture begins with a young woman, Bella Ford (Embeth Davidtz) struggling alone across the windy high country and giving birth to a stillborn baby in a deserted cabin. She has been seduced and abandoned by a young man, a moral lightweight named Arch Wilson, and as the story opens had been in search of the town where Wilson told her he lived.