Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
O'Brien, Rebecca (1957-)


Main image of O'Brien, Rebecca (1957-)

Although her CV includes films by Stephen Frears, Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen and even Richard Curtis, Rebecca O'Brien's biggest contribution to British film culture has been as producer of the majority of Ken Loach's recent films, in the process helping him to become one of Europe's most prolific filmmakers.

After cutting her teeth in theatre and children's television (she quipped that working with children was ideal training for a film-industry career), she worked as production and location manager on various independent productions, notably My Beautiful Laundrette (d. Stephen Frears, 1985). She met Loach when both were hired for a subsequently cancelled project, after which she co-produced his Hidden Agenda (1990).

The Spanish Civil War drama Land and Freedom (1995) was the first Loach film that O'Brien produced outright, an experience that led to a significant change in the way his films were funded. Before 1995, they had generally been all-British affairs, but their comparative popularity in mainland Europe was hard to ignore - especially Land and Freedom itself, which was an authentic blockbuster in Spain.

Accordingly, Loach and producer Sally Hibbin continued to work with partners Tornasol Films (Spain) and Road Movies Filmproduktion (Germany) on Carla's Song (1996), after which O'Brien (who had co-produced the 1997 blockbuster Bean in the interim) became his regular producer. She built on this framework by making each subsequent Loach film a co-production involving as many as seven separate countries. Each contribution was comparatively small, minimising individual risk, with creative freedom (essential, given Loach's predilection for politically contentious subjects) assured by his status as a widely-recognised auteur.

In 2002, O'Brien, Loach and their regular screenwriter Paul Laverty formed Sixteen Films, named after their then-current project Sweet Sixteen. Primarily intended to produce Loach's films, it has also backed work by Kenny Glenaan, Ian Knox and Brazilian filmmaker Henrique Goldman.

Michael Brooke

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Ae Fond Kiss (2004)Ae Fond Kiss (2004)

Unusually tender Ken Loach feature about love across cultural divides

Thumbnail image of Bread and Roses (2001)Bread and Roses (2001)

Ken Loach's first US film, about the exploitation of Latino workers in LA

Thumbnail image of Hidden Agenda (1990)Hidden Agenda (1990)

Tough, Belfast-set thriller about the British army's 'shoot to kill' policy

Thumbnail image of It's a Free World... (2007)It's a Free World... (2007)

Ken Loach's alarming portrait of the exploitation of immigrant labour

Thumbnail image of Ladybird Ladybird (1994)Ladybird Ladybird (1994)

Heartbreaking drama of a mother's struggle to keep her children

Thumbnail image of Land and Freedom (1995)Land and Freedom (1995)

Passionate tale of British volunteers fighting the Spanish Civil War

Thumbnail image of Looking for Eric (2009)Looking for Eric (2009)

Football-related supernatural buddy comedy from Ken Loach (!)

Thumbnail image of My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Surprise box-office hit about a gay Pakistani/National Front romance

Thumbnail image of My Name Is Joe (1998)My Name Is Joe (1998)

Drama about a reformed alcoholic trying to run a failing soccer team.

Thumbnail image of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987)Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987)

Controversial drama about racial and generational division in London

Thumbnail image of Sweet Sixteen (2002)Sweet Sixteen (2002)

Bleak portrait of a Scottish teenager coping with drugs and poverty

Thumbnail image of Flickering Flame, The (1996)Flickering Flame, The (1996)

Polemical documentary about an under-reported dockers' dispute

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach: Feature FilmsKen Loach: Feature Films

How the director brought his committed vision to the big screen

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach and his collaboratorsKen Loach and his collaborators

Collaboration is key for Britain's foremost political filmmaker

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Frears, Stephen (1941-)Frears, Stephen (1941-)

Director, Actor, Producer

Thumbnail image of Loach, Ken (1936-)Loach, Ken (1936-)

Director, Writer