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Film4 edges closer to new boss

Broadcaster expected to decide on new Film4 head in July, Screen looks at some likely candidates.

Film4 is getting closer to appointing its new boss, with a second round of interviews understood to be underway now.

Speculation is rife within the UK industry as to potential suitors for the job, which is widely regarded as one of the most coveted in the business — in the UK and abroad.

While former Focus Features CEO James Schamus was tipped by many as a front-runner for the job a few weeks ago, the executive is now understood to be unlikely to take on the role, preferring to concentrate on his own slate (he is Ang Lee’s long-time producer) and remain in the US.

But Film4 is still understood to be considering an international hire with a leading candidate known to be London-based David Kosse, president of international for Universal, who chose not to move to LA when Universal recently announced it would be relocating his job there later this year.

Kosse’s commercial know-how, ability to manage a significant slate, London base and international connections make him an intriguing candidate.

UK executives widely mentioned by industry watchers include Scott Free’s Liza Marshall, formerly head of drama at Channel 4; former Focus Features International executive Alison Thompson; and StudioCanal head of production Jenny Borgars.

Another name to emerge from the international arena is Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam. The former Miramax and HBO Films exec would be something of a wild card but has a strong production background and strong connections to the independent film world. 

DNA’s Allon Reich, Ruby Films’ Alison Owen and Film4’s own Sue Bruce-Smith have also been touted in some circles while former Focus Features president of production John Lyons has also been mooted as an international potential.

BFI Film Fund head Ben Roberts has been widely named by the industry as a likely candidate but he confirmed to Screen that he has not applied for the job and is committed to his post as head of the BFI Film Fund after joining from Protagonist two years ago.

Similarly, former Film4 deputy head Katherine Butler only recently joined production outfit Raw.

Head hunters Spencer Stuart has been assisting in the worldwide search, which C4 boss David Abraham had previously said was likely to be resolved in September.

Screen understands that that date has been fast-tracked with a decision likely to come in July.

While Film4 may yet go left-field in its hire (a joint-hire has also been speculated) or choose someone from the TV world, multiple well-placed sources have confirmed that the broadcaster will be looking for someone with a strong commercial mind-set, who will maximize the commercial potential of investments as well as build on the outfit’s enviable talent and creative relationships.

Much-revered outgoing head Tessa Ross, under whose stewardship Film4 backed Oscar-winners including Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, announced her departure from the broadcaster earlier this year. 

Ross leaves to become chief executive of the National Theatre, a role she is due to take over towards the end of the year.

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