In a surprise move, RichardStursberg, the executive director of Telefilm Canada, has resigned after onlytwo-and-a-half years to accept a position at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Stursberg, who was appointedto Telefilm's top job in January 2002, has been embattled of late, havingintroduced a controversial reward system based on a film's performance at theCanadian box office. Stursberg was unavailable for comment at time of going topress.

Guy Mayson, president andCEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association that Stursberg earned the respect of the industry bychallenging the status quo and introducing substantive changes to the agency,including increasing access of producers to Telefilm decision-makers andreducing red tape. "He's a doer," said Mayson of Stursberg, "He brought a strategicvision to the agency."

Still, the reward system wasperceived as being particular hard on English-Canadian features, which - giventhe overwhelming competitive advantage of US films - were hard-pressed to passthe threshold of C$1m at the box office. Several English-Canadian productioncompanies, including Toronto-based Rhombus Media, are facing a production hiaitusbecause their films, despite critical plaudits at festivals around the worldand their landing foreign sales, have not passed the hurdle on local theatricalrelease. No box office means no discretionary production envelope from theagency.

Another controversy eruptedearlier this year when, without consulting the industry, Stursberg signed adeal with Creative Artists Agency that would see the talent house, atTelefilm's expense, help package projects and find sales opportunities forCanadian filmmakers. The move was widely dismissed as pointless but harmless.

Stursberg's new position atthe CBC, executive vice-president, English television, has also raised eyebrowsamong television industry watchers, given that two senior CBC executives wereconsidered obvious choices for the role. Mayson speculated that Stursberg gotthe CBC job because of his efforts to build audiences for Canadian fare.

Meantime, Carolle Brabant,the Telefilm's director of finance and administration has been appointed actingexecutive director. "There will be a lot of interested people applying for thatjob [of executive director]," said Mayson. "It's an important job and Telefilmplays a hugely important role in the industry."

The timing of Stursberg'smove is coincidental with the appointment this week of a new minister ofCanadian Heritage, as recently-elected federal Liberal prime minister PaulMartin named his cabinet. Liza Frulla, the Montreal MP who will handle theportfolio, is widely regarded as an excellent choice. The next executivedirector of Telefilm will be appointed by, and report to, her.