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Sue Bruce-Smith, Film4’s deputy director and a much-loved and highly respected figure in the British film industry, has died. She was 62.
Bruce-Smith, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2018, died Saturday in Dublin, where she had been receiving treatment supported by her family.
In a tribute, Film4 director Daniel Battsek said that his colleague — whose list of credits spanned some of the best British independent cinema over the past 20 years, including The Favourite, Room, The Iron Lady and You Were Never Really Here — was “quite simply the best ally to have in your corner, personally and professionally.”
Bruce-Smith spent two decades of her career at Film4, first joining the organization in 1997 after stints at the BFI’s production division, BBC Worldwide and Palace Pictures.
In 2001, Bruce-Smith relocated with her family to Dublin and joined independent producer Little Bird. But she was lured back to Film4 by Tessa Ross in 2004 and had remained there ever since.
Battsek said that he asked Bruce-Smith to take on the role of deputy director “in recognition of her enormous contribution to the organization, to the British independent film sector, and to a whole generation of British filmmakers who benefitted from her wisdom, expertise and kindness.”
Over the years, she developed close working relationships with rising filmmakers now considered to be among the very best, including Steve McQueen, working with the director on every feature of his, right from his debut Hunger to his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave and latest feature, Widows. At the U.K. premiere of Widows in London in 2018, McQueen gave a shout-out to Bruce-Smith in the audience, saying, “This screening is for you, Sue.”
Bruce-Smith also applied her expertise to all three of Yorgos Lanthimos’ features with Film4 — The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite — and four titles from Ben Wheatley, from 2011’s Kill List to 2015’s High Rise. Her final credit was the Toronto International Film Festival-bowing Rocks, her second effort with director Sarah Gavron, having worked on the filmmaker’s previous feature, Suffragette.
“Sue’s knowledge and skill set spanned finance, production, marketing, distribution and sales,” added Battsek. “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.”
Last year, BAFTA celebrated Bruce-Smith’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.
Upon accepting her award, Bruce-Smith 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; and most of all, she loved the collaborative process of making and releasing films, feeding off the collective spirit and endeavor required, and the camaraderie created.
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