Film historian and Emmy-nominated television writer-producer Bob Gazzale has been appointed president and CEO of the American Film Institute (AFI).

Gazzale has been a senior executive at AFI for 15 years, most recently serving as director of AFI Productions. He will succeed Jean Picker Firstenberg, who announced she would retire at the end of AFI's fortieth anniversary celebration this autumn. Gazzale will assume the office on November 1.

'After considering a diverse and impressive group of candidates, AFI's Board agreed that Bob Gazzale's passion for American film and the character and quality with which he upholds the standards of AFI will lead us proudly into the twenty-first century,' said Howard Stringer, chairman of the Institute's Board of Trustees. 'Or as we say in the movies, we searched for brain, heart and courage, and found it all in our own backyard.'

Gazzale, 42, will have oversight and responsibility for all aspects of the nation's leading film education and cultural organisation, including AFI's Conservatory, television productions, on-line and digital programs, film festivals and exhibition programs, and the Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.