LONDON — Christine Langan, one of the producers of “The Queen,” is expected to be confirmed shortly in the newly-created post of editor at BBC Films, with Jane Wright named as general manager of the movie unit.
This would establish Langan as the senior creative exec at BBC Films, reporting to controller of fiction Jane Tranter.
But Langan, who joined BBC Films as an exec producer a year ago, will not replace David Thompson as head of the movie arm. His exit after a decade was announced Sep. 14. Instead, she will likely be the most senior in a team of two or three editorial execs, tipped to include fellow BBC Films producers Joe Oppenheimer and Jamie Laurenson, who will all be empowered to bring projects in.
Nor will Langan take on Thompson’s commercial and administrative responsibilities. Some of these will fall to Wright, previously head of rights and commercial affairs at BBC Films, who will also have a voice in creative decision-making.] Wright reports to the pubcaster’s business affairs topper Claire Evans.
The greater division of the editorial and commercial aspects of filmmaking at the pubcaster is one of the main structural changes being carried out in the revamp of BBC Films.
Several senior and junior execs have left BBC Films over the summer, as the unit has floundered in uncertainty over its future. Isabel Begg, previously head of business and legal affairs, has moved out and up to become the senior lawyer across Tranter’s fiction empire. Suzy Liddell, formerly head of production at BBC Films, has also gone to a bigger job as head of drama production.
Among other departures, business development manager Alexei Boltho left to join Paramount, and producer Luke Alkin went to Film4.
It’s understood that Langan herself considering quitting in recent weeks, but was talked round by Tranter. Wright, too, opted to stay on, despite receiving offers from elsewhere.
The two of them will face a considerable challenge to revive morale and restore focus at BBC Films after this destabilizing period. Nonetheless, the unit’s production slate has continued to flourish, with “Eastern Promises” winning the top prize at Toronto, and high-profile pics such as John Maybury’s “The Edge of Love,” Justin Chadwick’s “The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Revolutionary Road” by Sam Mendes and Mark Hurman’s “The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas” all in various stages of post-production.
Saul Dibb’s “The Duchess,” starring Keira Knightley, starts shooting next week. Other projects moving closer to the greenlight include Martin Campbell’s “Edge of Darkness,” John Crowley’s “Is Anybody There?” starring Michael Caine, “An Education” scripted by Nick Hornby, Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Dreamcatcher,” Jane Campion’s “Bright Star,” the Alexander Graham Bell biopic “Alec and May,” and new movies by Andrea Arnold and Armando Iannucci.
Thompson will stand down as head of BBC Films in October, but isn’t due to leave the pubcaster to launch his new indie shingle until next May. His company, as yet unnamed, will have a first-look deal with BBC Fiction, covering TV drama and features, and he will shepherd a slate of existing BBC movie projects as exec producer.
The confusion about who’s really in power at BBC Films is therefore likely to continue, at least in the short term, with Tranter and Evans exerting closer control, Langan and Wright attempting to steady the ship, and Thompson still somewhere in the mix.
Meanwhile, the pubcaster is conducting a strategic review of its involvement in filmmaking, which will report in the next couple of months. Insiders question whether this will result in any dramatic change of direction.
Langan is a relative newcomer to the movie business. She previously worked in drama at ITV production powerhouse Granada, where she produced the long-running hit series “Cold Feet,” which spawned many directors now breaking through into features, including Pete Travis, Tom Hooper, Declan Lowney, Tom Vaughan, Mark Mylod and Nigel Cole.
She made her movie producing debut at Granada with “Pierrepoint” and then “The Queen,” before leaving to join the BBC.