Bays will lead the strategic and cultural direction of the BFI’s investment of National Lottery funds into supporting UK feature film production – which at about £30 million a year represents the largest public fund in the UK for film and filmmakers – as well as new and emerging talent through BFI Network. She will take up the position in October, based between London and Nottingham.
In other changes at the fund, BFI vets Natascha Wharton and Lizzie Francke, formerly Senior Production & Development Executives, are segueing to the new roles of Head of Editorial and Editor-at-Large, respectively. Farhana Bhula and Kristin Irving are promoted to Senior Production & Development Executives. Fiona Morham has taken on expanded responsibilities in her Head of Production role.
Bays said: “I mark 30 years in film this year. What a way to celebrate and commence a new chapter. I’m both excited and terrified! I’m looking to continue as a changemaker and cultural agitator; this time bringing that energy and commitment within an institution with a long history, knowledge and passion for film, which I wholeheartedly share.
“I’m going to spend time listening (within and without the walls of the BFI), learning and reflecting on how the fund can be a dynamic and constructive part of a post-pandemic film movement. I’m passionate about making film more inclusive and relevant to people who have felt excluded and unrepresented. My hand will be out for those people, with whom I identify.”
Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, commented: “We’re so thrilled that Mia is joining us to lead the Film Fund team. The Fund really could not be in better hands as we look to the future of the fund and build our next strategy. Mia has such a wealth of experience across production, curation and audience development, and I have immense admiration for her transformative work at Birds Eye View. She has been championing diversity and emerging talent throughout her career, so she will be a key driver of our commitment to creating the widest possible opportunities across the UK. Welcome Mia!”
Bays has worked in the industry for almost 30 years as a creative producer, distribution and sales strategist, cultural activist, curator and workshop leader. She has worked on the releases of more than 150 feature films, is a BAFTA-nominated producer (including for Scott Walker: 30 Century Man executive-produced by David Bowie), and produced the Oscar-winning short Six Shooter directed by Martin McDonagh. She served as creative producer from 2007-2014 on the Film London BBC Films micro-budget scheme Microwave, which made eight features including Shifty and Ill Manors starring Riz Ahmed, Freestyle starring Arinzé Kene, and Lilting directed by Hong Khaou.
She is currently Director-at-Large for Birds’ Eye View, a charity that centers the female perspective in film and campaigns for gender equality in all film spaces, investing in the UK releases of films by women with backing from the BFI Audience Fund. She will remain in a consultancy role with Birds’ Eye View and intends to return there at the end of her fixed-term contract with the BFI Film Fund.
Recent films backed by the BFI Film Fund include seven-time BAFTA nominee and multi BAFTA-winning Rocks directed by Sarah Gavron starring EE BAFTA Rising Star Award winner Bukky Bakray, Ammonite directed by Francis Lee starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, and Saint Maud directed by BAFTA nominee Rose Glass featuring EE BAFTA Rising Star nominee Morfydd Clark. The fund saw eight wins at the BIFAs for Rocks, Saint Maud, The Reason I Jump, Limbo and Perfect 10.
Screen was first up with news of the Bays appointment.