In a major shake-up at the top of the UK industry, respected veteran Film4 head Tessa Ross is leaving her post to become Chief Executive of the National Theatre. Ross, whose most recent official title is Controller of Channel 4 Film and Drama, has headed up Film4, the feature division of the network, for more than a decade. She is considered one of the most powerful executives in the UK business and so integral to it that she is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of British filmmaking.” Film4 is one of the biggest supporters of the UK industry and under Ross has developed and financed such Oscar winners as 12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The Last King Of Scotland.
Commenting on her departure, Channel 4 CEO David Abraham said, “Tessa’s job is one of the most coveted in film, both in the UK and internationally, and while she leaves big shoes to fill, we will shortly begin the task of identifying a new leader for the next chapter of Film4’s story. Meanwhile our commitment to investing in independent British film remains undimmed and we have every intention of building on the extraordinary reputation Tessa has created.” A peek at Film4’s credits is a who’s who of independent filmmaking talent. The upcoming slate includes Richard Ayoade’s The Double, Yann Demange’s ‘71, Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, and Todd Haynes’ Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The company’s previous credits have included Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, Bart Layton’s The Imposter, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Leigh’s Another Year, Ayoade’s Submarine, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, McQueen’s Hunger and Shame, and Meryl Streep-starrer The Iron Lady; all under Ross.
She will remain at Film4 until September, and will stay on as Chair of the Growth Fund Advisory Council once in her new role. She will join the National in November, working alongside current artistic director Nicholas Hytner. She will formally become CEO, sharing the leadership of the National with Rufus Norris, when he becomes artistic director in April 2015.
Ross said, “I’m incredibly excited to be joining the National Theatre but it is with a heavy heart I leave this wonderful organization and the brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work beside over the past 13 years. I leave behind a dedicated, passionate team at Film4 – not only colleagues but true friends – and an important organisation in its mother Channel 4. It’s been an absolute honour to work with the writers, directors, producers and the many other talented people I’ve collaborated with during my time here, relationships I look forward to continuing. I’ve loved every minute of the work, and am privileged that the public purpose that has been at the heart of it – of discovering, nurturing and supporting great artists and great work – is something I shall be able to continue to champion and celebrate in my new role.”
Ross has experience with the National, having been on the board from 2011–2014. She has previously been a governor at the NFTS, a member of the ICA Council and a governor at the BFI. She is an honorary associate of the London Film School and an Honorary Fellow at the NFTS. She was appointed CBE in the New Year 2010 Honours List and received the Bafta for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema in 2013.