Colleagues including Elizabeth Karlsen, Adrian Wootton, Hugo Heppell and Amma Asante pay tribute to the late BFI Film Fund executive.
Elizabeth Karlsen, producer, Number 9
I first met Chris at the Dinard Film Festival. I’d just watched Sarah Gavron’s beautiful rendition of Brick Lane, which Chris had produced. After the screening he, Sarah and I sat at small table outdoors in the brilliant sunshine talking about films, the pressures of being an independent producer, our daughters and how much I loved Brick Lane. I hope he knew that I was speaking from the heart.
I was struck then by his quiet intelligence, his gracious and kind nature and his absolute devotion to and passion for independent film making. I could see that Sarah had enjoyed tremendous commitment from him as a producer on her first film. I was lucky enough, with my partner Stephen Woolley, to work with him consistently over the next eight years.
He was unfailingly positive, supportive and astute when it came to discussing scripts during the development process and edits during the post production process. He came to meetings without an ego, without the need to dominate, control or undermine the efforts of the filmmakers.
He listened, he worked with the creative intentions of the director and producer to help achieve the best film possible. He had a tenacity and determination. He understood that development could be a long and frustrating game, but was prepared to support you through the ups and downs of that process.
He was a first rate producer, and when he became an executive, which offered him the security and time he wanted to devote to his family, you hoped that he was the one you would have by your side on your project. I never heard him speak badly of his industry colleagues. He seemingly never complained about his illness.
He continued to work throughout his treatment sending supportive messages about various projects we had development at the BFI right up to final weeks before his untimely and tragic death. We will desperately miss his intellect, his creativity, his calm spirit and his friendship.
It was with great sadness that I read your article on the death of Chris Collins. I was lucky enough to have worked with Chris when he was Associate Producer at BBC Films, where he produced a short film of mine, Full Frontal. Chris was a patient, dedicated, modest man, with a true passion for independent film and a dogged belief in the underdog.
His dry humour and quiet commitment earned him the trust and loyalty of a whole generation of up and coming British filmmakers. My friendship with Chris continued, and he was a great ally when developing my first feature film Faintheart for UKFC and Film4. The UK film industry has lost a major figure in Chris. He was brilliant. He will be sorely missed.
A clever, dedicated and compassionate professional and a lovely person – one of the good guys. Completely committed to film and film-makers, he will be missed terribly. My thoughts and condolences are with his family.
Monday 3rd November was an extremely challenging day emotionally. To learn of Chris Collins passing, after being at the BIFA nominations, left me with a strange sense of mourning that I have not felt in a very long time.
It would be wrong of me to pretend that Chris and I were extremely close, neither as friends or collaborators. But as a young producer coming up in the industry, Chris ALWAYS (when he could) gave me a moment of his time. I rarely like to expose these types of personal things, but I once reached out for advice and he did not hesitate to meet me early in the morning in Soho for tea and pastry. I even tried to pay to thank him and I cannot remember, but am sure he did not allow me to. Even though we did not work closely together, he felt like an ally of sorts, I am not in anyway alluding to background championing of me, but I felt like we could work together one day.
I can only imagine the loss for his close friends, and colleagues, but I really did value his existence and I hope we can celebrate his life and how he impacted the British film Industry. My thoughts are with everyone suffering from his early death, close friends and his family especially.
Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission
I was incredibly saddened to hear about Chris’ passing. He was a great colleague and friend to all of us here at Film London and a fantastic champion of the work of our production team, especially our new and emerging talent schemes that he worked closely with us on and his vision helped us develop a new fund to champion BAME talent.
He was a joy to work with and so generous, and when on our shorts jury his passion and commitment to new talent was undeniable and infectious. He will be much missed and of course our sincerest condolences are with his family.
Hugo Heppell, Screen Yorkshire
Such a lovely gentle spirit whose passion was without limit. I hope and trust that this years BIFAs will be dedicated to a man whose mark is indelible in each and every category. Chris, even the films that were not your films are a lasting tribute to the influence and impact you have had over the years, and the films that were your films are bloody fantastic. You will be sorely missed, but you will be damn well remembered.
Samm, Duane, Andy, Esther, Chris and Ben and everyone associated with Third Films
Though I know you can’t read this when I was asked if I wanted to be part of a tribute to you I wanted mine to consider you in the present and future tense as well as the past. So I thought a letter to you would be the most appropriate way of doing this. Your influence upon the lives of my collaborators and myself remains in tact despite your death and I hazard that it will do so while we continue to operate.
There is so much to thank you for over the 10 short years that we have known each other and worked together. Your forthright advice over creative points in our work, your frank and honest appraisals of projects both positive and negative, your backing at low moments in those processes and support during the highs. These are all worthy lessons to reflect on and take forward in the future. The humility you displayed in both good and bad times, however, goes above and beyond the professional and I understand that there are lessons for me, for us all, in the way that you conducted yourself. One abiding moment that sums this up: I noticed you steady my wife by offering your arm, as she wobbled on her heels at the Venice premiere of Bypass. A true gent.
In the 10 years since I’ve known you - if our final meeting was at Valentino in Venice, 2014 our first was at McDonalds in Brixton 2004 – you have shared with me and those around me an understanding of what it means to be a filmmaker but also a sense of what it means to operate within this crazy life as a human being. I toast you for that. Your dry wit and sardonic laugh will remain with us as will your unshakable commitment to challenging and engaging cinema.
We promise to uphold that commitment and the manner with which you carried yourself as we move forward. There is so much more to say about you and your very well spent time, but really it is the act of upholding that promise that is of greatest importance to me and I hope to you.
You remain in our hearts,
Love from Samm, Duane, Andy, Esther, Chris and Ben and everyone associated with Third Films
Damian Jones, producer, DJ Films
I am forever grateful for Chris. Much of my work would never have happened without his support, suggestion and belief. He had integrity, taste and was always genuine and insightful. He is a class act who will be terribly missed.
Mark Cosgrove, Watershed
So sad to hear about Chris. I knew he was seriously ill but nonetheless it comes as a shock. Chris was a regular contributor to Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival in Bristol and a great supporter of new and established talent, a great advocate for creativity and independence. He will be missed. My thoughts & condolences are with his family and friends.
Amma Asante, filmmaker
Terribly sad to hear news that Chris Collins passed away. He was Senior Development Executive on Belle as well as an executive producer. His work on the film and contribution were invaluable. He championed me as filmmaker and is a huge part of the film coming to fruition.
I think of the loss his family is suffering and those who experienced his wisdom and talent professionally. I took it for granted that I would one day have the opportunity to work with him again. He was super insightful and I adored working with him. He will be missed.
I hardly know what to say. This man changed my life. He helped me make The Kármán Line - a film about the very thing that has taken him away from us - and never once told me he was fighting it.
He was always so calming and patient and matter of fact in the face of any emotional artist nonsense from me. He guided me, curbed my excesses but protected my creative freedoms. He was basically my film-land father figure.
Many people claim to ‘champion’ new talent, but Chris was the real thing. Today we were nominated for a BIFA. I do not believe this would have happened without him. I made the film for my mother, but as far as I’m concerned, it now has two dedicatees.
Regan Hall, filmmaker
Amma and Oscar have already said it so well. I too am eternally grateful for his patient support and encouragement - we couldn’t have made Fast Girls without him. Thank you Chris for everything. My love and condolences to his family in this painful time. x
Damon Wise, film journalist and programmer
Chris was a great guy; funny, perceptive and passionate about films and filmmakers: low-key but focused. He was one of my favourite things about Sundance, where I’d see him a lot. I’ll miss him.
Roy Boulter, Bob Last and Sol Papadopoulos
Our eternal thanks go to Chris for his unwavering support and encouragement, especially for his championing of ‘Sunset Song’ - which only happened because Chris totally believed in Terence Davies’ vision. We will miss him greatly.