Film Council crowns Icon’s Caplan

In an industry where just about everyone has detractors, it’s virtually impossible to find anyone with a bad word to say about Sally Caplan.

That, as much as her considerable experience in acquisitions and business affairs at Polygram, Momentum and Icon, explains why she was chosen last week to succeed Robert Jones as head of the U.K. Film Council’s flagship Premiere Fund.

At the UKFC, she will be in charge of investing £8 million ($15 million) a year in British movies with popular appeal. It’s a tough brief, and one that involves saying no to a lot of desperate people. That’s not a recipe for personal popularity.

But to have been at the sharp end of so many negotiations, and yet to have remained so widely respected, is testimony to her exceptional tact and marked absence of ego. Those are qualities in short supply at the UKFC, whose high-handed approach to indie producers has created a widening gulf between the org and the community it is supposed to serve.

Caplan, currently Icon’s head of U.K. distribution, has been appointed in part to bridge that chasm. By picking an acquisitions exec for the job, the UKFC is signaling that it wants to support producers rather than do their job for them. Unlike her predecessor, she will not take executive producer credits.

As one exec who worked closely with her for many years says, “She’s straightforward, she’s got good taste, she’s very good at understanding the value of films through all the windows and she’s got great contacts, not just in the U.K. but in the international marketplace. She has done multiple deals with multiple companies over the years and they all still love her — but more importantly, so do the people she never did deals with.”

Over the years, Caplan has been responsible for picking up hits such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Amelie” and “Lost in Translation.” If she can deliver that kind of quality to the Film Council, her new bosses will be thrilled.

Weiland’s birthday surprise

There are many ways to pitch a movie, but giving a speech at your own 50th birthday party must rank as one of the more unconventional.

Of course, director Paul Weiland was just hoping to amuse people with the tale of his disastrous bar mitzvah back in the summer of 1966, which was ruined by his family, friends and caterers being more interested in the England soccer team winning the World Cup final on the same day just down the road.

But guests at his 50th included Richard Curtis and Working Title co-toppers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who didn’t get where they are today by failing to recognize a heart-warming coming-of-age comedy when they hear one. So a development deal was struck, with Curtis helping Weiland to work up a treatment. Peter Straughan now is writing the script for the tentatively titled “Me and Bobby Moore” (Moore was England captain that day).

Meanwhile Weiland, a successful commercials director with a sporadic track record in movies, is getting ready to shoot another Straughan script, the hitman comedy “Three Bad Men,” starring Brendan Fraser and Woody Harrelson, for Priority Pictures.

Kuhn revs up slate

After mixed results for pics he financed such as “Kinsey” and “I Heart Huckabees,” Michael Kuhn is juggling the first three projects from his own development slate at Qwerty Films, with a view to shooting them this year under his Fox deal.

Johnny Campbell (from Paul Abbott‘s award-winning TV series “Shameless”) is attached to direct “Alien Autopsy,” about two British con men who faked footage. Brit TV presenting duo Ant and Dec are keen to co-star, though that deal’s not done yet.

Christopher Smith (“Creep”) is prepping horror pic “Severance.” And Kuhn has attached Danish helmer Susanne Bier (“Brothers”) to his long-cherished 18th-century biopic “Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.” Financing and casting remain to be closed on all three.

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