Wharton, Francke, Collins confirmed as executives working under Seghatchian in newly streamlined fund.

The UK Film Council (UKFC) formally launches its £15m production fund simply called The Film Fund today, a new initiative which combines the three funds formerly set at the organisation which will be run, as previously announced, by Tanya Seghatchian.

After an extensive interviewing process, Seghatchian is joined by a team of three executives – former Working Title executive Natascha Wharton whose credits include Billy Elliot, Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, and two existing Film Council executives Lizzie Francke and Chris Collins, both formerly at the Development Fund.

Wharton will start in her new role on May 4, and focus on development.

Francke will focus on experimental features, national engagemement and showcasing new talent.

Collins will focus on ideas for future film practices for both emerging and established film-makers from micro and low budget features and shorts to 3D movies.

Although the fund is open for business today, it will be formulating a more detailed strategy in the next few months.

Much of the £15m budget will be allocated to development while the remainder will go to production investments.

“The aim, and we will fail if it doesn’t turn out this way, is to have three people who work with Tanya who between them provide a different range of tastes and judgments and experiences,” explained UKFC chief executive officer John Woodward to Screen. “All four of them will be working across particular development projects, feature films, experimental, innovative or low budget projects.”

The new fund combines the ambitions of the previous funds – the Premiere Fund, The New Cinema Fund and The Development Fund – into one. “We are having one fund because there is an overhead pressure on us to be blunt about it,” said Woodward. “We had three sets of overhead and what we had to do is maintain the level of film production with less money coming to the Film Council.”

Woodward says that the new fund’s priority will be ambitious films of creative vision. “The two words which the board and myself have given that fund is creative excellence,” he said. “We want projects which have the potential to be great.”

The fund consists of a minimum of £15m, but Woodward says that it will be topped off with money from recoupment from investment projects. “We normally invest as an equity investor and are usually quite far down the revenue stream when the money comes back in,” he said. “Up until now, the money has gone back into the Film Council’s overall budget but from now on it’s going straight back into the fund, so while the fund is a minimum of £15m, I am hoping it will go up to £16m or £17m a year quite quickly.”

As part of the new plan, a producer equity scheme has been implemented whereby producers get back a percentage of the monies. “Producers will receive a 25% share of the UK Film Council’s recouped investment, rising to a 50% share once half of the UK Film Council’s investment has been recouped”, said Woodward. “The producer’s share is capped at the amount of the net UK tax credit advance included in the finance plan of the film in question.”

The UKFC has spent much of the last six months consulting with the industry on proposals. It has consequently set up a think tank chaired by UKFC chairman Tim Bevan to identify new policy initiatives to grow independent UK film companies of scale.

A new Innovation Fund, which will fall under the remit of Pete Buckingham’s Distribution & Exhibition Fund, will launch later this year with £5m to spend each year.

“It will be open to all independent film businesses across the value chain whether you are production company or a distributor or a sales company or a company developing technological applications which you think might work for the film industry or film audiences,” said Woodward. “We are going to fund development. It’s very broad and very wide open but the idea is for people to come in and explain that they have a new way of making or marketing a film or bring a complicated metadata project about providing context or background for the distribution industry.”

A board, to be assembled, will decide how the fund money will be allocated.

“The business is very tough and the next three years are going to be tougher than ever,” said Woodward, “so we have made sure we have a flexible structure in there run by people who are film-friendly and understand the needs of the industry. And we have an innovation fund that will start to enable small British film businesses to think about what life is going to be like in the new digital world.”