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Could the Next Chief of U.K.’s Film4 be an American?

James Schamus is one of the names being touted as a possible successor to Tessa Ross

CANNES — The favorite game among the Brit pack in Cannes is guessing who will be Tessa Ross’ successor as Film4 chief, and a surprising choice has emerged: former Focus Features boss James Schamus.

Whether he’d be interested is another matter, but another stumbling block is whether being American could count against him. Film4 is part of British broadcaster Channel 4, which is state owned, so there may be a backlash in the U.K. press if a Yank gets the top job at one of the main pillars of the British film industry, alongside BBC Films and the British Film Institute.

But when Variety asked Channel 4 chief David Abraham at the Film4 press lunch in Cannes Friday whether Ross’ successor could be an American, he simply stated that they were looking for the right person, wherever they came from.

Ross has been phenomenally successful, backing Oscar winners like Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” so these are big shoes to fill, but Schamus certainly has that shoesize, although his dance card as a producer is pretty full already, with the latest addition being Vincent Perez’s “Alone in Berlin.”

Head hunters Spencer Stuart are undertaking the worldwide search, and Abraham says the decision is likely to come in September. Abraham says no major staff changes are likely at Film4 as — in so many words — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Other names, among many, in the ether include Peter Carlton, who is now head of Warp Films Europe but used to be senior commissioning executive at Film4, and Sue Bruce Smith, who is head of commercial and brand strategy at Film4. Other suggestions are always welcome as this is a game that everyone can play.

Film4 has three films selected at Cannes: Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” and Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall,” both in competition, and Daniel Wolfe’s “Catch Me Daddy,” which is in Directors’ Fortnight.

In Cannes, Ross presented promos fresh from the cutting room from three hotly anticipated films — Sarah Gavron’s “Suffragette,” Todd Haynes’ “Carol” and Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth” — alongside footage from other films in the pipeline, like Lone Scherfig’s “Posh,” Kevin Macdonald’s “Black Sea” and Gerard Johnson’s “Hyena.”

Judging from the showreel that was shown in Cannes, these films should ensure that Ross’ reign ends not with a whimper, but a bang.

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