Ketley — whose death was announced Monday, but who died on Oct. 12 — had a wide-ranging career in film and television that spanned 25 years. It’s believed his death was sudden, and a cause is still unknown.
Ketley began his career as a young film and TV lawyer at London-headquartered media firm Olswang, and was later hired by a client of the firm, Fox Searchlight Pictures, in 1999. He spent 5 years working as a legal/business affairs executive in Los Angeles under Peter Rice, who is now chairman of Walt Disney TV.
During his time at Searchlight, Ketley created Searchlab, a unique initiative aimed at helping aspiring filmmakers by providing them with equipment and seed money to produce short films, in return for which Searchlight would get a first look at the resulting projects.
In 2004, Ketley returned to the U.K., where he joined former Olswang colleague Charles Moore to co-found the Film and TV Group at media law firm Wiggin. With their unique experience of having both worked in the U.S. studio system, they quickly developed a client base consisting of every U.S. studio and mini-major, as well as many of the leading U.K. independent film production companies. In doing so, they created one of the U.K.’s pre-eminent entertainment law practices.
Ketley and Moore also pursued a new business venture whereby they would source finance and distribution for feature films on a risk-reward basis, and in 2006, they executive produced the film adaptation of play “The History Boys.” The unique film financing model for the feature won them the FT Innovative Lawyers of the Year Award. They followed this up by executive producing films such as “Venus,” “The Eagle” and “Lady In The Van”.
In 2015, Miles left Wiggin to join Wales-based “His Dark Materials” and “Industry” producer Bad Wolf as COO. He joined Sony Pictures Television-backed Stolen Picture in 2017, and was recently promoting the company’s paranormal comedy “Truth Seekers” for Amazon Prime Video, which is set to debut on Oct. 30.
In addition to serving as CEO of Stolen Picture, Ketley was also a partner in the media financing company Stone Story Media, a trustee of the Independent Cinema Office and on the event committee for the British Independent Film Awards.
“Miles was an inspirational figure to be around – I truly see him as a modern-day ‘warrior poet,'” said Charles Moore, senior partner at Wiggin, in a statement shared with Variety.
“For any studio or production company, he was a terrific lawyer and negotiator and had mastered the art of the deal, but he had a wide and eclectic knowledge of art, literature, film, fashion, photography and music and a comedic turn of phrase that could dissolve a boardroom or martini bar into tears. Miles was a true ‘blue sky thinker’ who created new ways of doing business and was often left frustrated at others’ inability to spot opportunities which were far ahead of their time.
“He had an incredible empathy for others and a huge generosity of spirit, creating talent incubators, mentoring and changing the lives of a number of young underprivileged filmmakers and reshaping the careers of many others. Miles was incredible company — warm, energetic, wise, interested, gracious and so, so funny. He will be hugely missed by all who knew him, and I am deeply privileged to have had him as a business partner and my closest friend,” said Moore.
Peter Rice, chairman of Walt Disney Television, added, “Miles was whip smart and funny, diligent and kind. We will miss his quick wit and warm smile and remember him as a beloved and key member of the team that built Searchlight into the business it is today.”
Kevin Loader and Damian Jones, producers of “The History Boys” and “The Lady In The Van,” said: “Miles was much more than a first-rate business affairs lawyer — he was entrepreneurial, always thinking outside the usual structures and, most importantly, interested in the creative possibilities of anything he helped shepherd into being. His experience in Los Angeles and at Wiggin had given him truly global perspective on our industry; but it was his interest in the work itself that made him such a great partner for both of us and the directors we worked with, Nicholas Hytner and Roger Michell.”
A joint statement from Pegg and Frost reads: “We are beyond heartbroken at the sudden and unexpected passing of our friend and colleague, Miles Ketley. He was the captain of our ship and the head of our family at Stolen Picture. We will miss him with all our hearts. We send boundless love and sympathy to his family and friends and ask that everyone’s privacy be respected at this time.”
In a statement shared with Variety, Wayne Garvie, president of Sony Pictures Television, said of Ketley’s death: “This is devastatingly sad news and we send our condolences and support to Miles’ family and friends at this time. Miles was achieving great things at Stolen Picture, and everyone there and across the wider SPT family will miss him greatly.”
Meanwhile, Bad Wolf co-founders Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner said in a statement shared with Variety: “Like everyone, we are heartbroken by the news about Miles. He was an enthusiastic, big-hearted and significant part of our early Bad Wolf years. We wouldn’t be where we are without him. He will be much missed by many. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
The British Independent Film Awards said of Ketley’s death: “All of us at BIFA were shocked and saddened to hear of Miles’ passing. He was a kind and clever friend to us and the Awards, generous always with his time and experience. He will be greatly missed.”