US executive to take over as chair of the BFI when Greg Dyke steps down early next year.

Josh Berger

The BFI (British Film Institute) has named its new chair as Josh Berger, the president and managing director of Warner Bros Entertainment UK, Ireland and Spain.

It marks the first time an American has taken the unpaid chairman role of the BFI, the state-backed organisation that champions independent British filmmakers and filmmaking in the UK.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP confirmed that Berger - who will retain his position at Warner Bros. - will take over from current chair Greg Dyke in February 2016.

Berger was selected as chair designate following a recruitment process, which for the first time was overseen by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. He will serve a term of up to four years.

The US exec, who has lived in the UK since 1996 and is also president of Harry Potter Global Franchise Development for Warner Bros., has been a BFI Governor since April 2011.

As chair, Berger will be responsible for lobbying for government support over the likes of film tax credits at a time when the BFI is set to receive an 8% cut to its grant-in-aid funding over the next four years, following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review.

Previous BFI chairs have included filmmakers Richard Attenborough, Alan Parker, Anthony Minghella, producer Jeremy Thomas and broadcaster Joan Bakewell.

Protecting UK film

Berger said he was “honoured and excited” to take on the role and wanted to “build on the great work” of Dyke, who has been in the role since March 2008.

“Our goal is to ensure that the BFI continues protecting and promoting the UK’s thriving film culture and supporting and nurturing the ideas and talent that make up our world-class British film industry, of which we are all so rightly proud,” said Berger.

In a statement, BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said she was “confident” Berger would help the organisation “push ahead with our ambitious future plans”.

“Josh is a global player, firmly rooted in the UK, and as our new chair is really well placed to lead on the BFI’s mission to promote Britain’s thriving film culture and filmmaking prowess to the world,” added Nevill.

At the heart of UK film

Outgoing chair Dyke said the appointment was “great news” for the BFI and for film in the UK.

“He has an unwavering enthusiasm for the BFI and the cultural importance of film, having served on the Board for the past four years and leading our international fundraising committee to secure vital resources for the Archive, so there will be a good level of continuity,” added Dyke.

“Josh has been at the heart of film in the UK for more than 20 years. He values and understands the spirit of independent filmmaking alongside the brilliance of our crews and facilities that are all so in demand worldwide. I wish him every success.”

Berger, who has worked at Warner Bros. since 1989, also serves as a board member at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and is a BAFTA member and chair of Chickenshed Theatre Trust. He was awarded a CBE by the Queen in 2012 for contribution to the creative industries.