The UK film industry rarely welcomes change. So Jane Tranter, controller of BBC Fiction, had a tough job on October 2 as she explained her decision to revamp BBC Films (which Tranter oversees).
There will no longer be a single head in charge of the BBC's film arm. Instead, responsibility will be shared between a four-person board comprised of Christine Langan (commissioning editor, BBC Films), Jamie Laurenson (executive producer, BBC Films), Joe Oppenheimer (executive producer, BBC Films) and Jane Wright (commercial affairs and general manager, BBC Films).
Tranter's restructuring has inevitably caused some concern in the UK film industry, as it also comes with the departure of former BBC Films head David Thompson (a generally popular figure among local producers).
Some in the industry have questioned why BBC Films is moving back to Television Centre, in west London, and giving up its stand-alone offices in Soho. 'We want BBC Films literally and metaphorically to be at the centre of everything we do at BBC Fiction,' is Tranter's response.
Tranter started at the BBC in 1985, as a secretary at BBC Radio Drama. She later became an assistant floor manager on drama series EastEnders, a trainee script editor on popular drama Casualty and a script editor for BBC Films (under Thompson).
She also worked as a drama commissioner at commercial TV company Carlton. In 2000, the BBC director-general at the time, Greg Dyke, headhunted Tranter and made her BBC drama commissioner. In 2006, she was appointed controller of BBC Fiction within BBC Vision.
The idea for the new board structure at BBC Films comes in part from Tranter's experience at BBC Television Drama, where such a system is already in place.
'We've got a board that consists of the editorial heads in television drama,' she explains. 'They sit as equals around a board, chaired by myself and Ben Stephenson (head of drama commissioning). Together, we make decisions.
The reason was to stop a solo gatekeeper - one person saying: 'Yes, no, yes, no.' I think it has added a real plurality of voice and vision to BBC Television Drama.'
Given the perennial complaints about the small number of gatekeepers who make decisions on UK film funding, Tranter's new structure is likely to be welcomed by independent producers.
She says: 'There aren't many people to go to (for film) in the UK. By replacing David Thompson, not directly but by creating this board, there are now four people in the BBC who you can go to. Sometimes reactions to projects are quite chemical. Having this kind of board will encourage real objectivity of taste. It will mean there's always a second chance.'
Tranter will not be drawn on her own film tastes ('I don't know how useful it is to exercise my passions and prejudices because that will not be BBC Films'). However, she lists films she has seen recently: Ratatouille, Atonement, The Bourne Ultimatum, Surf's Up, Bratz The Movie and A Mighty Heart. Her taste, she says, is 'as eclectic as it comes'. She adds that at BBC Films, 'There isn't one type of film I would close the door to, apart from maybe torture porn films.'
She insists BBC Films will continue to back hard-hitting, innovative films, even if they are likely to struggle for ratings or for prominent slots in the BBC prime-time schedule. 'The cultural remit is enough of a justification to make a film, but BBC Films is about providing variety and ambition.'
Laughs for all the family
There is likely to be an emphasis on comedy and family movies (Peter Pan In Scarlet and Swallows And Amazons are in development). There will, however, still be a place for projects such as Andrea Arnold's Red Road.
In recent years, BBC Films has backed US-set projects, such as Fast Food Nation and Sam Mendes' upcoming Revolutionary Road. Tranter does not discount supporting this type of film in future, but it will be less of a priority. 'We won't be developing so many films that are entirely set in America because the Americans can do that,' she says, but adds the BBC could back projects 'that the Americans don't want to do or say about themselves. We aren't going to be limiting ourselves to films about our island.'
As controller of BBC Fiction, Tranter oversees an annual budget of around $500m (£250m). BBC Films represents only a tiny proportion of the overall spend. Nonetheless, she insists the BBC's director general Mark Thompson regards film as 'very important'.
'He was the architect with Jana Bennett of BBC Fiction. Putting BBC Films into that is a clear demonstration of how important Mark and Jana see BBC Films. They want to bring it right into the heart of everything we do.'
In February 2006, the BBC had pledged to raise the amount of money it invested in the acquisition and production of British movies to $60m (£30m) a year by 2008. But those figures were reliant on a hefty increase in the television licence fee, which has failed to materialise.
The funding arrangements for BBC Films will be confirmed this month. The current budget stands at $20m (£10m) a year. This is likely to be increased, but the question is, by how much'
Whatever the funding arrangements, BBC Films will continue trying to punch above its weight. One challenge, given that it will remain a minority investor in many of its projects, is to ensure the distinctive BBC stamp is recognised.
'That is about the development, about the very clear proposition of the script and about these guys (on the BBC Films board) acting as executive producers throughout the process and ensuring we make the best films we can. If a film has been developed from a script that has a sense of 'BBC-ness' to it, then the finished film will also have that.'
BBC Films: selected projects
Julian Jarrold has finished principal photography on his adaptation of the Waugh classic.
Now shooting, Keira Knightley stars in director Saul Dibb's 18th-century story.
Edge Of Darkness
Graham King's GK Films is also on board for this big-screen version of the cult-classic TV series.
The Edge Of Love
Sienna Miller and Knightley star as the women who loved Dylan Thomas. John Maybury directs.
Is There Anybody There'
John Crowley is in pre-production on this project, which will star Michael Caine.
John Downer will direct this $50m Kipling adaptation, set for delivery in 2009, also set up with Pathe.
Nature documentary, with BBC Natural History, now in post.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Scarlett Johansson stars in Justin Chadwick's Henry V story.
Peter Pan In Scarlet
Geraldine McCaughrean's sequel to JM Barrie's classic tale is being developed with Headline Pictures.
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio star in this story of a strained marriage in US suburbia, directed by Sam Mendes. In post.
Swallows And Amazons
An adaptation of Arthur Ransome's novel about four children on a summer adventure.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Lynne Ramsay is attached to direct an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's bestseller about a US family torn apart by their violent son.