In a major shake-up at the top of the UK industry, respected veteran Film4 head Tessa Ross is leaving her post to become Chief Executive of the National Theatre. Ross, whose most recent official title is Controller of Channel 4 Film and Drama, has headed up Film4, the feature division of the network, for more than a decade. She is considered one of the most powerful executives in the UK business and so integral to it that she is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of British filmmaking.” Film4 is one of the biggest supporters of the UK industry and under Ross has developed and financed such Oscar winners as 12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The Last King Of Scotland.
Commenting on her departure, Channel 4 CEO David Abraham said, “Tessa’s job is one of the most coveted in film, both in the UK and internationally, and while she leaves big shoes to fill, we will shortly begin the task of identifying a new leader for the next chapter of Film4’s story. Meanwhile our commitment to investing in independent British film remains undimmed and we have every intention of building on the extraordinary reputation Tessa has created.” A peek at Film4′s credits is a who’s who of independent filmmaking talent. The upcoming slate includes Richard Ayoade’s The Double, Yann Demange’s ‘71, Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, and Todd Haynes’ Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The company’s previous credits have included Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, Bart Layton’s The Imposter, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Leigh’s Another Year, Ayoade’s Submarine, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, McQueen’s Hunger and Shame, and Meryl Streep-starrer The Iron Lady; all under Ross.
She will remain at Film4 until September, and will stay on as Chair of the Growth Fund Advisory Council once in her new role. She will join the National in November, working alongside current artistic director Nicholas Hytner. She will formally become CEO, sharing the leadership of the National with Rufus Norris, when he becomes artistic director in April 2015. Read More »
The low-budget film based on the hit Channel 4/E4 TV comedy series about four hapless teenage boys looks set for a big weekend in the UK. The Inbetweeners rang up $4.25M from 409 sites in its first day of previews for Entertainment Film Distributors Wednesday. That’s more than last year’s biggest UK production, StreetDance 3D, took in on its first weekend and previews combined.
Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors’ Association, indicated that the impressive first day could prompt exhibitors to increase its screen count. “This is an absolute bullseye score for the UK cinema audience around the country; that 15 to 24 demographic is key.” A two-for-one ticket offer sponsored by a mobile phone company boosted admissions. The film is directed by Ben Palmer and written by Damon Beesley and Ian Morris, the creative team from the TV version who are also behind the MTV Inbetweeners series adaptation, slated to launch next year. Producer Christopher Young and the cast are in, too. Film4 financed and produced with Young Bwark. IM Global is handling international sales on the film, which does not have a U.S. distributor.
Blimey, you wait for one film with George VI and two come along at the same time. Roger Michell, director of Morning Glory, is casting U.S. actors to star in Hyde Park On Hudson, his movie about the love affair between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Daisy. Producer Kevin Loader tells me he hopes to shoot this year, subject to casting. Written by Richard Nelson, the film revolves around a weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen arrive at President Roosevelt’s upstate New York home on the eve of the war. It was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever been to America. Michell is also looking for an actress to play Eleanor Roosevelt. Film4, the movie arm of the UK broadcaster, has been developing the project for some time. It’s part of the reason why it turned down The King’s Speech when it applied to the broadcaster for funding. Katherine Butler, senior commissioning exec at Film4, says: “We already had this George VI project so there was a conflict of interest. Plus, The King’s Speech didn’t quite fit in with Film4’s identity.” That identity is director-led films with distinctive voices that say something about Britain today. Channel 4 found itself in a similar position back in the 1990s when it had two films about people losing their jobs in northern England who band together to rediscover their self-respect: Brassed Off and The Full Monty. In … Read More »
UPDATE: UK culture minister Jeremy Hunt and arts minister Ed Vaizey have rowed back transferring the £15 million ($19 million) lottery film cash to the British Film Institute. Nor are they going to ask BBC Films and Film4 to split the money between them. I’m told that BBC Films has reacted “with horror” at the prospect of controlling the lottery cash. The BBC’s film department may make the same kind of features as the UK Film Council, but getting hold of that money could see its own £12 million funding being cut.
The irony is that it was the Arts Council of England’s original bungling of the lottery film cash that partly led to the UKFC being established. In the late 90s, producers were crying out for proper industry executives to award production funding, not a committee of well-meaning amateurs. Now it looks like we’re going full circle. “Once it finds out what’s going on, the whole industry will start laughing and then start crying,” says my source.
Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title, and UKFC chief executive John Woodward met Vaizey and Hunt this afternoon at 2:30pm (6:30am PST).
Liam Neeson, meanwhile, has weighed in to the controversy, calling the government’s decision “deplorable”. Neeson told the BBC: “We need movies. It’s a powerful industry that provides a credible entertainment for millions of people and I think it is wrong, I just think it is wrong for the government [to do this]. I … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The UK government is considering handing over the £15 million of lottery film production cash, which the UK Film Council currently handles, to public broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4. Ed Vaizey, the government arts minister, has talked about splitting the UKFC’s £15 million of lottery funding only recently. He argues that both broadcasters both fund the same kind of films. One UKFC insider I spoke to today described this as an “appallingly dumb” idea. “It may have come up now they are desperately scrabbling around for something to do with film money,” this insider tells me.
Even if BBC Films and Film4 go with the plan – and both complain that they’ve long been starved of funds – what’s to stop Auntie BBC and Channel 4 from just cutting their annual budgets as a result? BBC Films currently receives £12 million a year, while Channel 4 has just had its budget increased to £10 million annually. Producers would also likely howl as it further reduces the number of gatekeepers from three to two.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport tells me nothing has been decided yet. A detailed implementation plan will be worked out over the summer. But DCMS is considering options to transfer these funds to other existing bodies. There’s been talk of the British Film Institute handling the lottery production cash through an arm’s length commercial body — much like the arrangement BBC has with BBC Worldwide. I’m … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The sales agent has closed a multi-million dollar facility it wants to use for bigger films. Protagonist can use the money for either minimum guarantees or development funding. It’s already eyeing one ambitious yet-to-be-announced Film4 project. Protagonist was set up in January 2008 to sell films backed by Film4, Vertigo Films and financier Ingenious.
Broadly speaking, Protagonist handles two or three films a year from Film4. At the moment it is selling Submarine, currently in post-production, and Tyrannosaur, the directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine.
Its slate includes Bel Ami, starring Robert Pattinson, which came through its relationship with Ingenious and executive producer American Idol creator Simon Fuller. Bel Ami has sold everywhere apart from North America, Spain and Japan. Ingenious, co-financier of Avatar, is financing fewer independent films these days. Partly this is because the way UK tax rules work means that investors have to spend a minimum 10 hours a week producing projects. Roberts says Protagonist can still take films to Ingenious to cash-flow pre-sales though.
And it has just taken on Snowtown, the grisly true story of a serial killing family, which starts filming in Australia this summer. This is a co-production between Warp X Australia – the Oz offshoot of the UK label — and Screen Australia.
Roberts says: “There are too many sales agents chasing too few projects. The hardest thing about establishing a new company such as Protagonist is establishing your reputation with banks.”
On the Vertigo side, it is starting pre-sales on its Streetdance 3D sequel. The … Read More »