Secretive UK property player UKI has entered the film production business, launching UKI Films with former Rocket Pictures development chief Polly Steele.

UKI, said to be worth up to $1bn (£700m), is covering overheads and providing an annual development fund of $217,000 (£150,000) over three years. Steele, who produced Rocket's Women Talking Dirty, said that it might also fund production "if it was matched by someone in the industry".

The Schimmel family, which runs UKI, will own two thirds of UKI Films. Steele holds the remainder, although she has full creative control.

UKI, which this year narrowly missed buying Berkeley Square Estates, reportedly the largest property sale ever in London's West End, first teamed with Steele during her time as a BBC documentary maker during the 90s. The company underwrote her documentary on UN secretary general Kofi Annan's peacekeeping visit to Baghdad during the Gulf conflict.

UKI Films' first projects include The Stronghold, a big-budget family fantasy film adapted from Mollie Hunter's Roman Britain-set novel. Also in the works is psychological thriller After Tom, which Steele aims to direct next spring.

Joining Steele as a development assistant is Kerry Appleyard, formerly a script editor for TV dramatist Lynda LaPlante.