As Tanya Seghatchian steps down as head of the Film Fund to return to producing, the UK industry points to challenging times ahead for the BFI.

The UK film industry has reacted with sadness at the news that Tanya Seghatchian is to step down as head of the BFI’s Film Fund.

“They are very big shoes to fill,” said head of BBC Films Christine Langan, who has worked alongside Seghatchian to fund a number of British films including We Need To Talk About Kevin and Fish Tank.

“Tanya has got an international profile, incredible grace and focus and that rare thing of having real film making credentials within the public service. I think people will be reeling, because they have really relied on her,” said Langan who added that the loss would mean more challenging times ahead for the BFI.

“The BFI is having to evolve quickly, it’s challenging for them. I’m sure they will work it out, but I would say it represents a massive chore for them at a rather busy time.”

Some in the industry have suggested that whoever the BFI chooses to replace Seghatchian will act as an indicator for the direction they intend to take with their film funding choices: commercial or cultural.

For producer Andrew Eaton - whose latest features, Fernando Meirelles’ 360 and Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna were both backed by Seghatchian through the Film Fund - it could be an opportunity for the BFI to rethink the role.

“In those positions of public paid funds it is right that people should rotate. But rather than try to fill her boots, maybe the BFI should  take this as an opportunity to rethink what the role is and what they should do next.”

“One of the things they suffer from is constantly trying to define what they are supposed to be doing. Tanya was driven by the material and responded to that. She trusted her taste and you always felt like they were fewer strings attached than with some of her predecessors,” said Eaton, adding that “it’s rare to leave a public job like that and be as well thought of as she is, which is a very strong indicator of how well she did the job.”

When it comes to a successor, UK producer Stephen Woolley of Number 9 Films said he hoped that the BFI would chose ” someone who has had the battle scars of having to raise money, put together scripts and keep a movie together, rather than a bureacrat.”

“Tanya has a broad taste. She loves movies which are blockbusters and family pictures as well as small intimate pieces of art. That is what was unique about her and I think it will be difficult to find that again in one person,” he added.

Film-maker Mark Cousins, who is currently in Toronto showing his latest work The Story Of Film, which was backed by Seghatchian’s Film Fund, was also full of praise, describing her as “brilliant to work with. Decisive, passionate, supportive and encouraing.”

Meanwhile Sixteen Films producer Rebecca O’Brien, who picked up backing from Seghatchian for Ken Loach’s latest feature Angels’ Share, pointed to Seghatchian’s role in ensuring the smooth transition of the Film Fund from the UKFC to the BFI in April. “She didn’t come onboard at the Film Council to end up managing a transition from one outfit to another, and she did remarkably well to carry on the flow of funding so smoothly.”

O’Brien added that Seghatchian was “probably itching to get back in the driving seat again,” in response to her expressed desire to return to producing, from where she came. She famously spotted the potential of the Harry Potter films going on to develop and produce the first four. Prior to that she worked in BBC drama and in documentaries.

“Producing is in her DNA and I welcome her back into the fold,” said O’Brien.