Richard Soames, a well-known and influential figure in the Australian screen industry for 30 years, has died at his home in Los Angeles, aged 78.

Soames was the long-time CEO of completion guarantor Film Finances, the first company to provide completion guarantees at the introduction of the 10BA tax incentives in 1981.

The London-born Soames joined Film Finances in the early 1970s and expanded the business in the US, Canada and Australia.

"Richard was such a part of the scene down here in the 80s and 90s," said Sue Milliken, who represented Film Finances in Australia until Anni Browning took over as MD in 2010.

"He visited at least three times a year, travelled all over the country to film locations and he was on the telex and later the fax and email on a daily basis no matter where he was in the world. Our working relationship was a fantastic one, based totally on trust.“

The most notorious production in the company’s history was Terry Giliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Shooting at Cinécittà studios in Rome, it fell so far behind schedule that Film Finances had to take over the production. Budgeted at $23 million, the film ended up costing twice as much.

Among the hundreds of Australian films handled by Film Finances were Paradise Road, Burke and Wills, Lantana,  The Coca-Cola Kid, Roadgames, Shine, The Man from Snowy River, Monkey Grip, Careful, He Might Hear You, Bliss and Bran Nue Dae.

Milliken said, “He knew everyone in the business here and he provided a service to Australian production which was unique. He genuinely loved Australian filmmakers and helped where he could with hospitality and advice when they visited in London or Los Angeles.

"We were friends as well as colleagues over such a long period. It truly is the end of an era."

Soames stepped down at Film Finances in 2010 when Steve Ransohoff and Kurt Woolner staged an MBO, but remained as a consultant.

He is survived by his wife Rosie and two daughters. A son predeceased him.