Sue Bruce-Smith, Film4’s Deputy Director and a much-loved figure in the UK biz, has died at the age of 62 following a battle with cancer.
She was diagnosed two years ago and had been receiving treatment at home in Dublin with the support of her family – she passed away on Saturday morning.
Bruce-Smith started her career in 1985 at UK distributor and producer Palace Pictures, a key incubator for the local industry, working on titles including Absolute Beginners, The Company Of Wolves and Scandal. In 1989 she moved to the BFI where she stayed for four years before joining BBC Films.
In 1997 she began a 20-year affiliation with UK funder Film4, initially leading the sales team on a slate that featured East Is East and Sexy Beast. Relocating to Dublin in 2001, she worked at independent production company LittleBird, before rejoining the relaunched Film4 in 2004 under Tessa Ross as Head of Commercial Development, working on a slate that included Slumdog Millionaire, Hunger, Iron Lady, The Selfish Giant, In Bruges, ’71, Room and Carol. She most recently held the post of Deputy Director at the UK funder, working with Director Daniel Battsek.
She was honoured with a BAFTA celebration in 2019. At the event, Bruce-Smith said, “Don’t be afraid of embarking on something new. Throw yourself into the work, ask plenty of questions and make sure you work with people who both inspire you and bring out the best in you.”
Today, Film4 Director Daniel Battsek paid the following tribute to Bruce-Smith.
It is with the greatest sadness that I’m writing to let you know of the death of our beloved friend and colleague Sue Bruce-Smith.
As most of you will know, Sue was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago, and has been receiving treatment for that at home in Dublin supported by her family. She passed away yesterday morning.
Sue spent two decades of her career at Film4. She first joined the organisation in 1997, after stints at the BFI’s production division, BBC Worldwide and Palace Pictures, where I first got to know her.
In 2001 she relocated with her family to Dublin, where she’s lived ever since, and joined independent producer Little Bird. But she was lured back to Film4 by Tessa Ross in 2004 and has remained here ever since.
Most recently she held the title of Deputy Director of Film4, a role I asked her to take on soon after I took over the leadership, in recognition of her enormous contribution to the organisation, to the British independent film sector, and to a whole generation of British filmmakers who benefitted from her wisdom, expertise and kindness.
Sue’s knowledge and skillset spanned finance, production, marketing, distribution and sales. Her reputation was second to none, and she was a key element of Film4’s relationships with our partners and stakeholders, playing an integral role in many of our most successful and iconic films.
Sue was the epitome of the “do it or it doesn’t get done” mindset of Palace, and while she expanded her repertoire and developed her knowledge of the business over the course of her career, her attributes throughout were that she was adept, shrewd, reasonable, a great negotiator, and a very warm and real human being.
Last year BAFTA celebrated Sue’s career with a special Tribute event to reflect on her outstanding contribution to the industry, at which a wide range of filmmakers she’d helped demonstrated their love and respect for her. On accepting her award, she talked about the things that sustained her interest throughout her career: she loved independent film; she loved working in the public service, and the opportunity that afforded to take risks, make work that had social relevance and broaden the pool of filmmaking talent; but most of all, she loved the collaborative process of making and releasing films, feeding off the collective spirit and endeavour required, and the camaraderie created.
Sue inspired all those who worked alongside and for her. She was quite simply the best ally to have in your corner, personally and professionally. Words really can’t express how much I will miss her.
Our thoughts are with her family, who will hold a small, private service for her in Dublin.
In due course, I will be in touch with Film4’s plans to commemorate Sue.
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