The British Film Institute has added 5 new board members on the day that it takes over responsibility for running the UK movie business. The agency has also increased lotto funding for film from £15 million to £18 million ($24 -29 million), which the government has long said would happen as a result of the Film Council shutting. The 5 new board members announced this morning are:
— Josh Berger, president and MD of Warner Bros. Entertainment UK. Berger is a loyal company man. He’s been with Warner since graduating from Harvard in 1989. Since then he’s had stints in Paris and Madrid – he speaks 5 languages — before relocating to London in 1996 to head European pay-TV for the studio. Berger took over the reins of Warner Bros’ UK operation in 2002, when the studio was still under the AOL takeover legacy that content should be free. His biggest challenge is trying to find a business model that matches at some level the DVD cash cow. Over the past 8 years he has managed to get all the divisions across the notoriously silo-driven Warner to work together. This new business model has been deemed so successful it’s been exported to Spain and Italy. Berger is definitely on the rise. “One of the few studio bosses operating outside the US not hobbled by business affairs in Los Angeles,” says one colleague, “And that’s a triumph in itself and testament to his independent-minded qualities.”
— Matthew Justice, managing director, Big Talk. The urbane head of film at Big Talk, whose Attack the Block won the audience award at SXSW earlier this month, is one of the few Brit producers interested in behind-the-scenes politics. He has been lobbying on behalf of UK producers’ association Pact, trying to ensure filmmakers voices are heard in the current funding shake-up.
— Beeban Kidron, director. Kidron’s directing credits include To Woo Fong, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, the BBC TV drama Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and the second Bridget Jones movie. She quit Working Title’s Hippie Hippie Shake, starring Sienna Miller, while it was in post-production. That movie is still unreleased. Kidron has co-founded children’s film charity Filmclub.
— James Purnell, producer Rare Day. There was joy when Purnell was appointed Culture Secretary by the previous Labour government in June 2007. He was seen as “one of us” by the Brit media industry, having been the BBC’s head of corporate planning between 1995 and 1997. Whitehall civil servants cannot abide the idea of government ministers getting too cosy with the industry they are supposed to be policing. So Purnell was moved on after just 6 months to become the government employment minister. He was then involved in a farcical coup against Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he resigned as minister in June 2009. Expecting other ministers to quit too, Purnell was instead stranded in political no man’s land. He quit as a politician 8 months later.
— Lisbeth Savill, head of film and TV, Olswang. Recognised as one of the best film lawyers in London, everybody knows how hard Savill works. One of the producers of The King’s Speech has credited the carefully-spoken Australian with not losing her cool when everybody else was panicking as funding went south. It’s a sign of how well she is regarded that Savill is the only lawyer to have won a Women In Film and Television Business Award.