NZ Film Commission chief executive David Strong has stepped down from his role after less than a year, citing “growing private commitments” that were no longer compatible with the role.
Strong was announced as the successor to Annabelle Sheehan in June last year, having worked in the screen industry since 2006, including as a specialist advisor on major projects such as Disney’s Mulan and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series.
Shortly after he began in the role, a funding application to develop his script entitled The Pilgrim into a TV drama series was approved by NZ On Air, which was informed of his involvement prior to the decision being made.
Earlier this year, the NZ Film Commission launched an independent review, which according to terms of reference obtained by stuff.co.nz, was to examine “whether conflicts of interest arising from the chief executive’s personal interests, including but not limited to, those in relation to The Pilgrim, have to date been appropriately disclosed by the chief executive and managed by both the chief executive and the board”.
Speaking about his departure, Strong said the decision had come following discussions with the board.
“It has been a privilege to be the CEO of the Commission, working with the highly committed team and passionate filmmakers across New Zealand and internationally,” he said.
“It is a role that I have taken very seriously and given my all to.
“But my commitment to a significant television project that I’ve been working on for a number of years means I have decided that I will leave the film commission.
“My interest in The Pilgrim TV series was fully declared before I was appointed, with expert advice sought and then properly managed with the board. Recently, the board and I have worked through the issues. We have agreed, sadly, that my continuing growing private commitments are no longer compatible with this role.
“I wish the film commission, its staff and the wider film community all the best for the future as it and we build on our recent successes at international film festivals and the Academy Awards. I will be involved in the wider sector and look forward to continuing to be part of a very interesting and busy period in the screen production industry in New Zealand.
NZ Film Commission chair Dame Kerry Prendergast said the board has been very satisfied with David’s performance but agreed with his decision.
“We respect his decision to step down as the best way forward for him and the board of the Film Commission at this point, and we fully support him in making that decision,” she said.
“I wish to thank David for the efforts and progress he made in his time as CEO, particularly in representing New Zealand in Los Angeles, building strong relationships across the sector and championing our recently released Diversity and Inclusivity strategy.”
“The board will commence a search for a permanent replacement for David but in the interim Mladen Ivancic will continue as acting chief executive until that process is complete.”