The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has announced that a new chair will be stepping into Dame Kerry Prendergast’s shoes come October – giving Prendergast enough time to finish the NZFC’s probe into the conflict around its recently appointed chief executive, David Strong.

Strong was strongly criticised back in May by the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) after a letter from Prendergast to senior film industry figures revealed that Strong’s personal interest in a TV and film project, The Pilgrim, represented a “conflict”.

The country’s lead film producers’ guild has expressed its concerns around Strong’s “conflict of interest” and doesn’t believe it is possible for the conflict to be managed.

Alastair Carruthers

The new chair taking over Prendergast’s role in October is Alastair Carruthers, a former council member and interim chief executive of Unitec.

Arts, culture and heritage minister Carmel Sepuloni said Carruthers brought significant leadership experience and a wealth of film and screen sector knowledge to the position, and his “necessary understanding of the industry” would stand Carruthers in good stead.

She said Carruthers' previous roles had also included commissioner for the international cultural exhibition, Venice Biennale, and he produced several films.

Sepuloni said she extended her gratitude to Prendergast for her service as chair of the board – a position she has held since 2016. 

“She has steered the film commission board through extraordinary times, particularly when the film and screen industry across the world witnessed some of its greatest struggles due to the covid-19 pandemic,” Sepuloni said.

She called the NZFC a “key contributor” to Aotearoa NZ’s thriving culture, and said it ensured that home-grown talents were “provided with opportunities to flourish through film and screen”. 

“That’s why it’s really important that the NZFC has a well-connected and experienced board that can support this kaupapa,” she said.