James Thompson has been promoted to head of sales and marketing at New Zealand Film, the sales division of the NZ Film Commission, effective immediately. He was previously business affairs executive in the same division.

He replaces Kathleen Drumm, who left the organisations to join Screen Australia in a marketing role last September. Thompson worked closely with Drumm prior to her departure and has been covering the role in conjunction with NZFC chief executive Graeme Mason.

Thompson told ScreenDaily that he and Mason shared the view that the agency needs to become more commercial. He added: “Our remit is to promote New Zealand, New Zealand films and New Zealand filmmakers but there is a danger of spreading ourselves too thin. By default if we get our films to as many countries as possible we are promoting New Zealand.”

He added that the Cannes Film Festival and American Film Market will remain the two most important markets for New Zealand, followed by the Berlinale and Toronto International Film Festival. “I will endeavour to continue the legacy left by Kathleen and previously Lindsay Shelton and to maintain close, cordial and collegiate relations with your buyers.”

He said that while the US market was not fundamental to the sale of all NZ Film’s pictures it continues to influence the behaviour of other buyers.

His first international trip in his new role of head and sales and marketing will be to Sundance, where writer/director Taika Waititi’s Boy (pictured) is in competition. Inspired by his Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night, Boy is also in competition in Berlin. It is being released locally by Transmission.

“I am very optimistic about this film,” said Thompson. “You expect it to have Taika’s particular brand of humour but it is also heartfelt and heart warming and it has soul. I am really proud to be going to the market with this film.”

Other films coming down the line include Home By Christmas, directed by Gaylene Preston, Simone Horrocks’ After The Waterfall, Matariki directed by Michael Bennett, Jason Stutter’s Predicament and Hopes & Dreams by Brendan Donovan.

The New Zealand film industry is waiting for the government to release its report into the review of the NZFC conducted last year. Celebrated New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson was one of the consultants.