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New Zealand Film Commission CEO steps down amid conflict-of-interest review

David Strong has stepped down as CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) amid a conflict-of-interest review about his involvement in a publicly funded TV project.

David Strong

Strong was placed on leave in May while a review looked into concerns raised because his project The Pilgrim received development funding from NZ On Air.

He stepped down as head of NZFC on August 5, having joined in July last year when he took over from Annabelle Sheehan.

The NZFC board is set to begin a search for a permanent replacement for Strong but said in the interim Mladen Ivancic will continue as acting CEO until that process is complete.

The Pilgrim, in development with Great Southern Television and TVNZ, is described as a conspiracy thriller and follows a traumatised SAS officer on the run.

Strong, a former lieutenant colonel with a 22-year career in the New Zealand Army, said: “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. 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.”

Strong added that he “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.”

Prior to joining NZFC, Strong had been a specialist advisor to major motion pictures and international streaming TV series including Disney’s Mulan and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series.

A co-owner of Wellington-based Craftinc Films, he has written, directed and produced several independent short films and collaborated on various multimedia theatre productions.

In 2015, Strong was a founding member and inaugural chair of ScreenSafe, an independent pan-industry body established to improve the New Zealand screen sector’s health and safety.

NZFC chair Dame Kerry Prendergast said the board had been “very satisfied” with Strong’s performance but agreed with his decision to step down.

“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.

“I wish to thank David for the efforts and progress he made in his time as CEO, particularly in representing New Zealand in LA, building strong relationships across the sector and championing our recently released diversity and inclusivity strategy. He will continue to be part of the wider screen industry and we wish him every success with his upcoming projects.”

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