Tessa Ross, Channel 4’s Controller of Film and Drama, last night received the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, presented to her by long-time collaborator Danny Boyle in front of a star-studded audience which included many industry colleagues and friends.
Introducing Tessa to the stage, Danny, whose collaborations with Tessa include the multi Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and forthcoming Trance, described Tessa as a “shy genius”, adding:
“Her incredible effort, determination and belief are why our industry continues to thrive. She’s a visionary, someone who’s willing to take a chance, take a risk to back a writer, director, producer, when others have maybe turned them away. As head of Film4 she has passionately championed new talent and actively sought out challenging and controversial projects that were deemed too risky or unprofitable by the open market. What’s more, time and time again, her uncanny instinct has been proven right, and these projects have become huge worldwide successes. Many of us here tonight, myself included, wouldn’t be where we are today if it were it not for her.”
Accepting her award, Tessa Ross thanked her “committed, clever, passionate and patient” team at Film4 and all “the extraordinary writers, the visionary directors, the magical technicians and actors, the dogged producers I’ve had the huge privilege of being able to work with.”
Tessa also paid tribute to the team who built Channel 4 30 years ago, whose vision still forms the guiding principles of Film4 today, saying: “The reason we can work this way is because of a vision that was built 30 years go by some brilliant people – amongst them David Rose and Jeremy Isaacs – and the vision was very simple and it was this: to take the values of what was then a very new public service channel, Channel 4, and those values were of taking risks, of nurturing talent, of doing things differently, of challenging pre-conceptions – to the community in this country, the talented people who want to make feature films…and that’s the vision that we have today.”
Thanking BAFTA for her award, Tessa said: “It’s wonderful to be part of building a legacy that is Film4, but in truth the thing that matters to me most is that it should continue to do bigger and braver things, and it should be an essential part of our cultural life for very many years.”
David Abraham, Channel 4’s Chief Executive, said: “Congratulations to Tessa and Film4 for this award, it is a huge accolade for her personally and is richly deserved. It’s also an opportunity for us to take great pride in the wonderful and unique work that Film4 continues to do as part of the overall creative effort of Channel 4.”
The Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award is presented annually in honour of Michael Balcon. Previous recipients include Mike Leigh, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jarman, Mary Selway, Ridley and Tony Scott, Working Title Films, Lewis Gilbert, and the Harry Potter series of films. Last year’s recipient was John Hurt.
There were further celebrations for Film4, with Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis taking the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer award for The Imposter.
The EE British Academy Film Awards ceremony was hosted by Stephen Fry at London’s Royal Opera House. The full list of winners can be found here http://awards.bafta.org/award/2013/film.
Biog information from BAFTA press release issued last month announcing Tessa Ross as the recipient of the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award:
Tessa and Film4 have built a reputation for developing and financing some of the most innovative and acclaimed British films which between them have amassed a large number of prestigious awards.
Tessa is a champion of the British film industry. She nurtures filmmakers in their first feature films such as Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot, Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy and Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, amongst many others. She also has developed longstanding working relationships with established British filmmakers such as Danny Boyle, Shane Meadows, Mike Leigh, Michael Winterbottom, Roger Michell and Kevin Macdonald. Together they have worked on some of the most critically-acclaimed and award-winning films of the last decade including Slumdog Millionaire, The Last King of Scotland, This Is England and Happy-Go-Lucky.
Forthcoming releases see her working with Danny Boyle on Trance, Richard Ayoade on The Double, Michael Winterbottom on The Look of Love, Steve McQueen on Twelve Years a Slave, Kevin Macdonald on How I Live Now, Jonathan Glazer on Under the Skin, Lenny Abrahamson on Frank, Clio Barnard on The Selfish Giant, Shane Meadows on his Stone Roses documentary, and Anton Corbijn on A Most Wanted Man. Recent Film4 films Seven Psychopaths, The Imposter and The Curse are nominated this year in the Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, Documentary and Short Film categories respectively.
Tessa has also cemented Channel 4 Drama’s reputation for risk and innovation. Pieces commissioned during her stewardship include Shameless, White Teeth, The Devil’s Whore, Sex Traffic, Omagh and Elizabeth I.
Tessa came to Channel 4 from the BBC’s Independent Commissioning Group where as Head of Drama her commissions included Paul Abbott’s Clocking Off, and Stephen Daldrey’s multi award-winning Billy Elliot. She was previously a governor at the BFI, a governor at the NFTS, a member of the ICA council and an external examiner for the MA in Screenwriting at the Northern Film School. She is currently a member of the National Theatre board and an honorary associate of the London Film School.
Tessa was appointed CBE in the New Year 2010 Honours List for her services to broadcasting.