Sally Caplan has been appointed as the new head of the U.K. Film Council’s flagship Premiere Fund, one of the most visible and influential jobs in the British film industry.
Caplan, currently president of U.K. distribution at Icon Entertainment Intl., will be responsible for investing £8 million ($15 million) a year to co-finance British movies intended for a wide audience.
She replaces Robert Jones, who ankled at the end of last month to launch a new production venture for Entertainment Film Distributors and New Line.
Caplan’s appointment will be widely welcomed in Brit film circles and internationally, where she is a popular and respected figure after many years as an acquisitions and business affairs exec for Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Momentum Pictures.
The choice of Caplan signals a determination by the UKFC to build bridges with British indie producers, who have grown increasingly critical of what they see as the org’s high-handed approach.
By picking an acquisitions exec, the org is indicating that it wants to support producers, rather than to usurp their role. Unlike her predecessor, Caplan will not take executive producer credits on the projects she invests in.
Her biggest challenge will be to make sense of the Premiere Fund’s self-contradictory remit. It is supposed to back commercial movies that the marketplace alone will not finance. Jones struggled to find projects to fit those criteria, and sometimes found himself forced deeper into arthouse territory than originally intended. Nonetheless he managed a recoupment rate of 58%.
In four and a half years under Jones, the Premiere Fund backed a mixed bag of pics including “Gosford Park,” “Vera Drake,” “Ladies in Lavendar,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Sex Lives of the Potato Men,” “Miranda,” “Valiant,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Code 46,” “L’Homme du Train,” “Five Children and It,” “Young Adam,” “Mike Bassett: England Manager,” “Creep” and “The Proposition.”
Highlights of Caplan’s long career in acquisitions include her pick-up of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” for Polygram, and her purchase of “Amelie” and “Lost In Translation” for Momentum.