Dick Ross obituary | Film


Richard Ross, my mentor and friend of 40 years, who has died aged 84, was a passionate, kind-hearted intellectual and a pre-eminent figure in film education for three decades. A modest man who wore his achievements lightly, he was known by peers and students alike as Dick.

Born in Hokitika, New Zealand, Dick was the son of Paddy Ross, who owned a cycle shop, and Muriel (nee Bell) a school teacher.

Dick studied theology at Canterbury University College, but left before graduating. There he met Phyllis Hamilton, a textiles artist. They married in London in 1957 and Dick pursued a career in journalism. A stint at the Exchange Telegraph was followed by five years with Visnews international news agency. His ability to remain calm under pressure – he thrived on impossible deadlines – came to the fore when, in 1965, he joined BBC TV News as an editor.

The gatherings at the Phyllis and Dick’s house in north London attracted many of the leading lights of the literary and artistic world of the 1960s, including the artists Pat Hanley and Bill Culbert (fellow New Zealanders) and the British artists Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley, all of whom became friends.

Portrait of Dick Ross by his friend the painter Bill Culbert

While at the BBC, he also taught screenwriting part-time at Nottingham University. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of European cinema. In 1980 Dick was headhunted for the role that would come to define him: professor of film and television at the Royal College of Art. A maverick with an instinct for spotting potential, Dick changed the lives and launched the careers of countless young film-makers. The RCA Film school was voted the best in Europe by the International Association of Film Schools, in 1985 and 1986.

In 1989, Dick accepted the position as co-chair with film director Miloš Forman at the graduate film department of Columbia University, New York. From 1990 to 1992 he was chairman of the graduate film department at New York University.

Following his return from the US, Dick worked at the National Film and Television School from 1995 to 1998. Always in great demand as a visiting professor, he then lectured in Israel, Malaysia and throughout Europe.

In recent years Dick was beset by tragedy. Phyllis died in 2014, followed a year later by his son, Adam. Dick retired from public life, dividing his time between an apartment in Wapping and his house in the Vaucluse, France.

He is survived by his daughter, Rebecca, his grandchildren, Ellen, Sebastian, Rebecca and Oscar, and his great grandchildren, Alexander and Svala.




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