New twists in BBC Films plot line

Board created in revamp; 'funding secure,' exec says

BBC Fiction controller Jane Tranter unveiled Tuesday her long-anticipated shake-up of the pubcaster's BBC Films.

Tranter has restructured the filmmaking unit, pledging that its "funding is secure" and creating a BBC Films Board.

She said that a final decision on the level of funding would be made by the middle of the month but could not confirm any figures.

But sources within the BBC were confident that the current level of annual funding, which stands at £10 million ($20 million), will remain and might even rise.

Tranter said the day-to-day management of BBC Films and decision-making will now be the responsibility of the nascent board, which comprises commissioning editor Christine Langan, executive producers Jamie Laurenson and Joe Oppenheimer and commercial affairs manager and GM Jane Wright.

The changes follow the departure two weeks ago of BBC head of films David Thompson to set up his own independent production company, which will focus on producing television drama and film. Thompson has a first-look deal with BBC Fiction.

Langan, Laurenson and Oppenheimer will report to Tranter, with Wright reporting to Claire Evans, operations and business affairs chief at BBC Fiction.

Tranter said that she prefers a flat board structure rather than a hierarchical one because it means BBC Films will gain four different voices and tastemakers when making decisions, she said the new-look structure would "allow for a plurality of voice and vision and a collaborative approach to decision-making, while giving the individuals on the board real independence in their executive producer roles."

Each board member has been given specific areas of responsibility.

Wright will chair and be responsible for day-to-day operations, including securing financing and distribution, and executive producing duties.

Langan will exec produce as well as taking on the responsibility for management of the development slate and the development team at BBC Films.

Laurenson will exec produce along with working with digital channel BBC4 and Ben Stephenson, the channel's head of drama commissioning, on its slate of single films.

Oppenheimer will also exec produce while managing the close creative relationship with HBO Films.

Said Tranter, "The intention is to create a structure that felt flatter and fairer to the creative community out there."

The changes also mean tweaking editorial and business structures. The board, Tranter and Evans are putting together a game plan.

Tranter said she is aiming to capitalize on what audiences see as key BBC strengths.

"This move will bring BBC Films back into the heart of the BBC, and in particular BBC Fiction, enabling much greater creative collaboration across BBC fiction-drama, comedy and acquisition, with films very much at the center of the department," she said.

Evans added: "The firm intention is that ideas and projects can now flow between the departments much more easily. We also want to be even more ambitious with our external partnerships across fiction, and become better partners ourselves. We are open for business across the board."
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