Ben Roberts Hired To Head BFI’s $33 Million Annual Movie Fund

Meryl Streep with Oscar Statue - P 2012
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Meryl Streep with Oscar Statue - P 2012

The Protagonist Pictures CEO becomes Britain's film tsar -- responsible for the lottery fueled financing system that helped fund "The Iron Lady” and “The King’s Speech.”

LONDON –  Former Universal Pictures International executive Ben Roberts has been hired to be the director of the British Film Institute’s £21 million ($33 million) movie fund.

Roberts, currently CEO of U.K. based international sales and financier Protagonist Pictures, takes up the reins at the BFI’s uberfund later this year.

The high-profile funding position in the U.K. unites funding for development, production, distribution and exhibition for the first time from one cashpool.

The idea of creating a director for thelottery-raised movie cash pool and as result creating what many industry insiders regard as a film tsar came last year in the wake of the closure of the U.K. Film Council and its various fund structures.

While it may not be big money in Hollywood terms the BFI movie fund plays a central role in the British movie sector.

It has already pumped cash into Ruairi Robinson’s Last Days on Mars (aka The Animators) and Blood (aka Conviction), directed by Nick Murphy this year; previous projects benefiting from lottery largesse have included The Iron Lady, starring Oscar winner Meryl Streep and the Best Picture-winning The King’s Speech, which netted star Colin Firth an Oscar as well.

Since 2007 Roberts has overseen a range of releases including Submarine, Kill List, Nativity, Deep Blue Sea, Tyrannosaur, Streetdance 3D and In The Loop.

His previous roles include VP of Worldwide Acquisitions at Universal International Pictures and he also ran the U.K. theatrical distribution and acquisition operations for independent British distribution bannner Metrodome.

Movies rolled out on his Metrodome watch included Last Orders, Human Traffic, Donnie Darko, Spellbound, and Chopper.

As director of the BFI Film Fund, Roberts will oversee the U.K.’s biggest public film fund.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said: “His experience reflects the future demands on this new role, combining creative flair with a very strong audience and market sensibility.”

Nevill also noted the BFI’s search for a candidate to fill the role had been extensive and that it had been “fortunate to have a strong field of candidates.”

Roberts described the role as “a rare opportunity to make a difference in a really dynamic part of the film sector.”

He said the job would offer him a chance to play a part in leading the “development of a more joined-up approach to public investment in film in the UK by overseeing all of the BFI’s Lottery Film Fund investments - including distribution and exhibition - to better connect films with their audiences.”

Filmmaker Ben Wheatley, whose low-budget movie Kill List garnered plaudits, Robert’s former boss David Kosse, president, Universal Pictures International and Big Talk managing director and BFI governor Matthew Justice were among the names welcoming his appointment.