UPDATED, WRITETHRU 7:10 AM PT: Well-respected 10-year Universal exec David Kosse is joining the UK’s Channel 4 as director of Film4, its prolific and award-winning feature filmmaking arm. Kosse is currently President, International, Universal Pictures, a job he will exit on October 1. He takes over the reins at Film4 on November 1.
While it may look surprising from the outside that an exec with such a key portfolio at a major studio would shift gears to head up the feature arm of a broadcaster, the move makes sense for Kosse, a veteran business builder — from UK-based indie distributor Momentum Pictures, which he established in 2000, to starting Universal Pictures International, which he grew into a global operation based in 16 countries. I understand the sought-after exec has been looking for something different and was interested in getting closer to the UK industry with personal, quality driven and risk-taking films.
“This is undeniably one of the best jobs in the British film industry,” Kosse said Monday. “I’ve always had a passion for film and filmmakers and been a huge advocate for and a supporter of the British film industry so I am really excited about joining Film4.”
The head of Film4 is considered one of the most powerful positions in the UK business. The company is one of the biggest supporters of the UK industry, having developed and financed such Oscar winners as 12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire, The Last King Of Scotland and The Iron Lady. Kosse brings to the table a wealth of international production, marketing and distribution experience across both the independent and studio sectors, as Film4 eyes a slightly expanded commercial mandate. Channel 4 Chief Executive David Abraham tells me, “Clearly, this is a very heaveyweight executive with both strong creative and business experience. We’re hoping he’ll help us to continue to punch above our weight on the international stage.”
Kosse replaces Tessa Ross, who announced her departure to become Chief Executive of the National Theatre in March. He will bring his deep creative relationships to Film4 under a remit to oversee the development, financing and greenlighting of all feature films, and support for the production and distribution of all Film4-backed releases both in the UK and internationally. He will also discover and develop new filmmaking talent, and support the UK film industry while being responsible for exploring new partnerships and distribution platforms for Film4 content, and seeking to maximize return on investment for Film4 titles both in the UK and abroad.
Kosse’s move comes after a shake up in Universal’s overseas structure in April which would see the head of international theatrical operations relocated from London to Los Angeles. Kosse chose to remain in London rather than head to the West Coast. Under the U.S.-born exec, who has lived in the UK for nearly two decades, Universal’s international business flourished. He was instrumental in building the studio’s overseas footprint — Universal Pictures International has more than $2B at the box office in 2014 alone. His international successes have included Mamma Mia! ($460M IBO), the Bourne franchise ($1.2B GBO) and Les Misérables ($293M IBO).
He also has overseen a massive local language business that includes this year’s hit Spanish Affairs which is the 2nd highest-grossing film in that country’s history. He’s held his current position since 2009 and has been a key decision-maker in the greenlight process, and led the strategy for films throughout their life-cycle of release. Kosse has continued to oversee international operations for Universal since the transition was announced in April.
“Tessa Ross and her team have done a fantastic job over the past few years and I hope my experience in international production, financing and distribution will see Film4 continue to flourish,” Kosse said. “We want to build a slate of innovative, exciting British films which continues Film4’s great filmmaking legacy of working with established filmmakers and discovering great new and original British talent.”
Film4’s upcoming slate includes Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, Todd Haynes’ Carol, Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, Lone Sherfig’s The Riot Club, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, Yann Demange’s ’71, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris’s The Inbetweeners Movie II and Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man.