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David Abraham assures continuity at Film4

EXCLUSIVE: Channel Four chief executive discusses Tessa Ross’ departure and future strategy.

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has told ScreenDaily that Film4’s formula of supporting a combination of new voices and established indie talent “will remain the same” after Tessa Ross’ departure in September.

Ross’ unexpected departure has prompted a swell of praise for the executive, but also concern from some industry about stability within the broadcaster’s film arm, which is yet to replace deputy head of film Katherine Butler, who departed in February to join indie Raw TV, and is now to lose its figurehead.

“There is no hole to fill,” assured Abraham. “Tessa will be around until September and there is strength and breadth in the team who are currently handling large parts of the slate.”

Abraham said that current and future projects on Film4’s slate would get the team’s full attention during the transition.

“It’s a reasonable concern and observation,” he continued “but it’s my job and Tessa’s job to make sure projects are looked after. We’re used to transitions and we’ll handle this well.”

The Channel 4 boss added that the decision not to replace deputy head of film Katherine Butler, who left to join indie Raw in February, is motivated by a desire to foster internal opportunities for existing staff rather than cost-cutting.

Abraham confirmed that Film4’s film budget will remain at £15m going forward and that its core philosophy will not waver under new leadership.

“The formula will remain the same,” Abraham told Screen. “Whoever assumes Tessa’s position will have their own passions and over time we will follow those but there won’t be a significant alteration to the objectives of Film4, which are written into our remit.”

Abraham was speaking to Screen following Wednesday’s surprise news that long-time film and drama controller Ross will leave the company in September to become CEO of the National Theatre.

He described Ross’ exit as a “bittersweet moment” for him personally: “You can’t hold people back from the next big thing they are capable of doing,” he said. “From a personal point of view I’m thrilled that Tessa is achieving further ambition in such a prominent national role. I’m sure we’ll be collaborating in the future.”

Abraham, who will now begin the search for Ross’ replacement, described the role as a “tremendously coveted job”: “I’m confident there will be a fantastic field of people who will be interested in taking this forward. In the meantime Tessa will be around to make sure there is continuity.”

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