Chris Auty has replaced Richard Holmes as managing director of Civilian Content as the UK media concern slashes back in-house production and development and focuses on financing and international sales at its National Lottery franchise, The Film Consortium.
Holmes is understood to have clashed over film-making styles with Auty, also chief executive of the consortium. Best known for producing low-budget UK comedies Shooting Fish and Waking Ned, Holmes was apparently unhappy with some recent greenlit decisions by the board, the final straw being Kristian Levring's Innocence, a dark low-budget drama set in Asia.
"It's not so much a difference in tastes," Auty said. "Richard has had a fantastically successful career as an independent producer making comedies and that is what he has the chance to go and do again. The shift away from in-house production did not appeal to him."
Auty is focusing on projects that attract outside financing, particularly international pre-sales. The company this year ramped up sales operations, paying $367,000 (£250,000) to raise its 25% stake in The Sales Co to 75% and installing Aline Perry as its chief.
Auty, who brought Venice disappointment Dust into the consortium, aims to board many projects at an advanced stage of development in a bid to generate revenues more quickly. Productions will be greenlit by Auty and Perry, plus Civilian's financing team.
Perry, now a board director of Civilian and the consortium, said that projects would sometimes be on higher budgets than the average British film, as Dust was, or internationally-set, as is the case with Innocence. "Today you need diversity," she said. "We have to make sure what we finance will travel, at least on paper."
Civilian, which posted six-month losses of $1.1m (£741,000) Friday Sep 28, aims to cut its cost base and speed up the development of the company, which has little more than two years left of its $44m-plus (£30m) lottery franchise. The publicly-quoted company is winding down two of its film production outfits, Pagoda Film, formerly run by Norma Heyman, and Blackjack Film, headed by Hilary Heath. Affiliated producer Jo Tracey has had her contract terminated.
Civilian has appointed former Channel 5 chief executive David Elstein as deputy chairman in a drive to step up TV activities. Civilian, where Elstein was previously a non-executive director, aims to buy into another TV production operation after agreeing to acquire music and family content specialist Isis Productions this June for $1.8m (£1.2m).
In his chairman's statement, Civilian founder Richard Thompson said that he anticipated a trading profit in the fourth quarter this year. Two productions were delayed in the third quarter, although their trading profits are expected to show up in the fourth quarter.
One of those titles is understood to be Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things, for which Amelie's Audrey Tautou is reportedly in talks, although the production faces uncertainty after UK actors union Equity called for its members not to agree to work after December 1.
Civilian's Tim Willis said that buying a TV company had been difficult so far because the market had been unrealistic, with prices up to 60 times historic earnings. "It was our intention to have [film and TV] as parallel businesses, 50% film and 50% TV," he said. "At the moment it is 85% film, largely as a result of acquiring the Film Consortium and also The Sales Co."