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Film4’s New Chief David Kosse Speaks to Variety About Challenges of Role

Is Universal international topper too 'Hollywood' for U.K. independent scene?

LONDON — U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 revealed today that the new chief of its filmmaking division, Film4 — which has backed Oscar-winning pics like Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” and Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” — would be David Kosse, who is president, international, at Universal Pictures. Variety spoke to Kosse about his new role.

Kosse, who joins Film4 on Nov. 1, said it was a bit early to speak about specific plans for Film4, but added that he had no intention of changing the “creative remit” of the production unit. “There continues to be a focus on emerging filmmakers, young talent and creative risk-taking,” he said.

Recent pics from emerging U.K. talent backed by Film4 include Yann Demange’s feature debut “’71,” which premiered in Berlin competition, and Daniel Wolfe’s first film “Catch Me Daddy,” which bowed in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.

SEE ALSO: David Kosse Named Chief of Channel 4’s Movie Production Arm Film4

On the commercial side of the job, and in particular the distribution of Film4 movies, there may be room for fresh thinking, Kosse said.

“There is certainly some hope to figure out what’s going on in the business, which is a dynamic changing place right now. I think that’ll be the real challenge: figuring out where’s the best place for Film4 to sit in the broader industry, and the changing global dynamics around the shifting digital models, and everything else,” he told Variety.

“One of the things to figure out is where the models are going and how Film4 can play a role in that new world. Is there a role for us to play? Is there a different role? What will that role be? That’s something that everybody is trying to figure out, and I’m excited about taking my experience of that world at a big studio, and working with independent producers to try to figure out how to be a bit more nimble than some of the studios can be within that world and those changing models,” he said.

During his 10 years at Universal, Kosse built Universal Pictures Intl., the company’s international marketing and distribution arm, into a global operation based in 16 countries. It has grossed over $2 billion at the box office in 2014 alone.

Alongside BBC Films and the British Film Institute, Film4 is one of the central pillars of the U.K. film industry. As well as up-and-coming helmers, Film4 is a regular backer of more established British directors. Recent credits include Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” Ken Loach’s “Jimmy Hall” and Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin.”

Kosse refutes any suggestion that British independent producers may perceive him as being a little too “Hollywood” for their liking. Prior to joining Universal, Kosse ran Momentum Pictures, a leading British independent distributor, which he had set up in 2000. Momentum released both art-house and mainstream films, including Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie,” Peter Mullan’s “The Magdalene Sisters” and Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.”

“I’ve been around the U.K. for so long, and given the number of U.K. independent films that I’ve put money into or managed over the past 10 years at Universal, and seven years with PolyGram and Momentum, I know most independent U.K. producers, and have partnered with many, many of them over the years,” he said. “So most of them know me, and know my taste, and know how to deal with me, and have had dealings with me over the years. Most of the community knows me quite well.”

He said that, although Universal hadn’t made a great deal of “noise” about it, the studio had backed or distributed a significant number of independent U.K. films over the years, and continues to do so, including upcoming Film4 titles Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina,” Lone Scherfig’s “The Riot Club” and Kevin Macdonald’s “Black Sea.”

Kosse also has been involved with the marketing, distribution and greenlighting of Focus Features titles, which included several independent British movies, he added.

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