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Stewart Till backs Daniel Battsek as head of BFI Film Fund

Till was speaking at a Skillset event held in London last night to celebrate the Skills Investment Fund reaching the £8m milestone.

Skillset’s chairman Stewart Till has publically endorsed Daniel Battsek for the job of head of the BFI’s Film Fund.

Speaking at an event to celebrate the £8m raised by Skillset’s Skills Investment Fund - a voluntary training levy raised on productions filmed in the UK in the last 12 years - Till told the room full of industry professionals: “I believe that Amanda Nevill and Tim Cagney from the BFI are here..if they are, could they appoint Daniel Battsek as head of the film fund. The whole industry wants Daniel, Daniel wants Daniel, please go ahead and do it.”

Josh Berger, head of Warner Bros UK, which was backing the event on behalf of Skillset, also suggested in his speech that he would be supportive of Battsek being appointed to the role.

The mention of Battsek won’t come as much of a surprise to most industry watchers; his name has led the speculation of the past few weeks of likely candidates for the job. The hiring process is ongoing, it is not yet known when the BFI will announce the appointment.

Tanya Seghatchian stepped down from the role of head of the film fund at the BFI in September 2011 to return to producing. She oversaw the transition from the UKFC to the BFI, holding the post for four years in all.

The new job will also supervises distribution activities (the P&A fund, headed by Pete Buckingham until his recent departure from the BFI, is now run by Alex Stolz) so the successful candidate will have likely worked with production and distribution.

The Film Fund’s senior production executives are currently Chris Collins, Lizzie Francke and Natascha Wharton, alongside Isabel Davis, Bradley Quirk and Fiona Morham.

Daniel Battsek currently holds a consultancy role advising on the partnership between Hyde Park/ImageNation and National Geographic Feature Group, after stepping down as head president of National Geographic Films following the announcement that Nat Geo Films would be closing its Los Angles Offices.

Prior to that, Battsek was president of Disney owned Miramax Films between 2005 and 2009. He entered the Disney fold back in 1991, when he was asked to start up a UK company as part of Buena Vista International’s worldwide distribution network. Prior to Disney he was managing director of Palace Pictures.

Meanwhile speaking about the achievement of the Skillset Investment Fund, Till said he believed that it was one of the key reasons that the goverment had brought in the 20% tax credit, and why the current goverment continued to be supportive of the industry.

Josh Berger, head of Warner Bros UK told the audience that “the work that Skillset has done has enabled us to make our studio’s biggest and most successful movies in this country.”

“Our success and experience we have had here has been so positive, that it really drove our decision to buy Leavesden Studios. We are here very much for the long haul. And the work that Skillset does is a fundamental piece in that puzzle.”

Warner Bros has contribued over 10% of the total SIF contributions to date, with the latest contribution from the final Harry Potter installment pushing the fund over the £8m mark.

Also speaking at the event were Iain Smith (via video link up from Australia where he is producing Mad Max), Sixteen Films producer Rebecca O’Brien and production accountant Matt Lawson.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Palace, Miramax, National Geographic. What do they all have in common?

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  • Wholly agree with previous comment.
    Plus - "The whole industry wants Daniel"? No they certainly don't - take a straw poll of Brit producers, execs and financiers.

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  • I don't think Disney, where Daniel served longest, has gone bust yet. And Miramax still exists, if under new ownership. That's the business we're in. He can hardly be held accountable for Nik and Steve's unique approach to corporate management at Palace. NatGeo was a misstep, but was it his fault?
    He's a good candidate, with a range of experience across indie and studio, production and distribution, UK and international, that's hard to match. Whether he's the best depends on who else has applied. It's a bit naughty of Stewart to lobby so publicly, though.
    But this is a very big job they have created at the BFI, and it needs a big figure to stand up to the self-serving Vicar of Bray who chairs the institute.

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  • The whole industry certainly does NOT want Battsek. There are many better independent candidates. The UKFC was dismantled because of its profligate spending and arrogance. Till as ex chair is wholly arrogant, and fortunately deluded, to think that the appointment of the new Head is in his gift. Till and Berger like Battsek come from the studio system and would endorse one of theirs. The BFI Film Fund with its limited funds can not hope to emulate the Studios - it needs an inspired head to do what the Brits do best - make independent films.

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  • Same old Boys club. Be nice to have someone with fresh ideas.

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  • The "industry" does not want Battsek. Typical of Till to be so pompous in an attempt to speak for everyone. His day is PAST.
    A gov't organization is so vastly different from the marketplace (where, by the way, Battsek did not entirely succeed, nor fail, I guess). Lizzie and Chris, as execs who understand the gov't processes and transparency needed by a gov't organisation, should be the lead candidates.

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  • sorry but Till is no authority to be dictating who should be in this job and i fully endorse the naysayers re Battsek, completely unsuitable and not qualified.

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  • It's now 5 months since Tanya Seghatchian left, and why is this appointment taking so long? If as some of the above state, there are better independent (whatever that means) candidates then why hasn't there been an appointment?

    If there is procrastination - a not uncommon BFI trait, then its probably a good thing that Stewart Till made his intervention, as it puts the spotlight on them to get a move on.

    I don't think he's claiming to represent the industry but a vacumn is in nobody's interests. If there are other candidates out there then go ahead and promote them.

    The post needs an industry heavyweight, who has credibility amongst the various internal BFI fiefdoms as well as externally, and can stand up to the intense scrutiny that the film fund will be subjected to - such as the above commentary. Daniel Battsek clearly is one - whatever the disagreements about his suitability in other respects.

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  • Daniel Battsek is a good guy who knows his stuff. It'll be interesting to see who actually gets the job - but whoever it is, they will need a thick skin as well as a knowledgeable brain...

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  • Ok, let's spare a thought for Daniel Battsek and others who may or may not have applied for this post.

    It is a big job and it is filling big shoes - say what you will but the UK Film Council's Film Fund made a demonstrable difference - please note David Cameron.

    It is a job that requires understanding of process but importantly understanding of how to work with and support talent and it also requires taste. It is an important job and questionable as to what's taken the BFI so long to get on with reruitment.

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  • For the love of cinema...bring back Sally Caplan!!!!

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  • Daniel has vision, creativity and an excellent eye for talent. Whether inside or outside the studio system he's supported small and big films of independent spirit. Is there another candidate with his level of production and distribution expertise that would want the job? The BFI are unlikely to have the courage to appoint this excellent candidate. It hasn't had a joined up vision accross the organisation in decades and this last year has increased the CEO's challenge in bringing those within the organisation closer together. The competition and division of attitudes on whether the BFI and film should be predominently cultural or commercial limits the future prospects for our industry and audiences.

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