Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) executive director Michelle Byrd will step down from her role at the end of the year.

New York-based Byrd, who has spent nearly two decades with the organisation, said the move was amicable and would allow her to pursue fresh challenges once her contract expires on December 31.

Indeed the executive said she was already in discussions to “build on her relationships in the media space and unify her interest in global issues and technology.”

She informed the board last November to ensure a smooth transition. Joerg M Ziegler and Andrew C LaValle of Time Warner’s worldwide recruitment and executive search will spearhead efforts to find a replacement.

Byrd joined IFP in 1992 to handle membership and programming responsibilities and was promoted to deputy director in February 1996 and executive director in April 1997

During her tenure as executive director Byrd moved the Gothams awards ceremony to the start of the season, launched IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs for narrative and documentary rough cuts, and repositioned the founding programme – now the Independent Film Week – to focus on projects in development.

Among her other notable accomplishments, she forged strong ties with New York City authorities and brought in long-term funders like The New York Times, Time Warner, and The John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation. Most recently Byrd co-founded the documentary film forum Envision with the United Nations.

“This is a community and an organisation about which I care deeply… I have great faith in our deputy directors, Amy Dotson in programming and membership, and Mitch Micich in finance and operations, and their ability to aid in a smooth transition,” Byrd said.

IFP board member Jeffrey Levy-Hinte said Byrd had done “as much as any individual to advance the cause of independent film-making in New York.” He added, “All of us at IFP will miss her immensely, but we also acknowledge that this is an opportunity for a new infusion of leadership, energy and direction.”