The British media has on occasions been rather unfair on Nicola Horlick. I happen to disagree with them. Perhaps I don’t have a problem with powerful women but each time we have met I have found her open and honest about her position, whether talking about investment management, women in the workplace or even what her favourite movie happens to be.
She has taken criticism in the past over everything from being a woman in the business world to her wrongly reported association with Bernard Madoff but she has emerged resolute and if coming under attack bothers her it certainly doesn’t show!
We meet in her offices in Derby St, a more subdued setting than the last time I interviewed her at her offices in Knightsbridge but things have changed and business has certainly moved on.
For Nicola, it’s all about the refinement of her business and perhaps that’s why this creative mother of five is now looking to the “silver screen” to deliver a healthy return to her investors.
“Unlike a lot of industries, the film business has been demonstrating a healthy return year on year, even in the face of global recession,” she explains. “Let’s face it, even for a family of four, it’s a cheap night out.
“Last year 1.5 billion tickets were sold in the US alone and the rising popularity of 3D has given the whole cinema experience an even more unique sense of occasion, something that you cannot really appreciate anywhere else but on the big screen.”
But did she see the British film industry as a lucrative enough prospect to generate the kind of income returns her investors might expect.
“The brutal truth is that the UK doesn’t have the kind of investment to create big-budget films that deliver substantial profits so most of our productions are going to be US-based. However, what we do have here, and it is something we should be very proud of, is some of the best talents in the business. You only need to look at the awards to recognise how much we contribute to the industry globally.
“Producers, directors, actors, technical staff, writers – you name it and we as a nation excel at it!”
With plans to produce twenty-five films over the next three years, Derby Street Films is already making headway, although Nicola is keen to stress that quality comes before everything else.
“We have a team of six people on the Derby Street Films Investment Committee who decide on whether we go with a project or not and that is made up of three from Bramdean (including myself) and then three with a Hollywood background. We develop the scripts so that someone else can then produce them so our job is primarily to select which projects have the best potential to succeed.”
Is Nicola a keen cinemagoer then?
“Of course. There is a great tradition of movies in this country and you only need to look at The King’s Speech – something we were involved with on the musical score – to see that. A film like that has huge, widespread appeal and yet that may not have been evident from the start because you can never truly anticipate what seems a good idea on paper turning into a huge hit in the transition to the big screen.
“When I was younger I wanted to be an actress. I even did an audition at RADA but they told me to go to Oxford [University] and then come back after I had finished my degree. I decided to go into the city instead and never did get back to them,” she smiles.
She may have reached the milestone of 50 – although she doesn’t look it – but the drive and ambition remain as buoyant as ever.
“I could never imagine myself retiring. I still get up at 6 am and often won’t get to bed until late because I am not one of those people who is comfortable doing nothing. I need to be occupied.”
As well as the movie business, Nicola is planning to launch a number of private members’ clubs with the first due to open in the autumn in Barnes.
“I feel there is a market there for those people living outside London in places like Putney or Richmond who want something chic and different, similar to a club they might find in the West End.”
And if there’s a market you can rely on Nicola to satisfy it. She plans to launch between six or eight clubs over the course of the next five years.
This is not a woman to achieve then take it easy. This is a woman who epitomises drive and passion, someone who inspires women everywhere and remains the ambitious optimist in the face of adversity. Maybe not a media darling but certainly a woman of substance.
If you would like more information on Derby Street Films then visit the website at www.derbystreetfilms.co.uk