Channel 4’s Film/Drama Chief Tessa Ross to Become Chief Exec of U.K.’s National Theater

As Film4 chief Ross backed pix like 'Slumdog Millionaire,' 'The Last King of Scotland,' '12 Years a Slave'

LONDON — Tessa Ross is to become chief executive of the U.K.’s National Theater. She joins from pubcaster Channel 4, where she is controller of film and drama.

Ross will join the National in November, working alongside the theater’s director Nicholas Hytner, and will share the leadership of the org with Rufus Norris when he becomes director in April 2015. Lisa Burger, the NT’s chief operating officer, will continue her role as the third member of the executive. Nick Starr steps down as executive director at the end of August 2014.

John Makinson, chairman of the National Theater, said: “The National has grown enormously in scale and complexity under the leadership of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr. We are both a national and an international organization, with a global audience of four million.

“Tessa’s international experience and reputation as a producer and executive need no introduction, and her partnership with Rufus Norris will give us the strongest possible platform on which to extend the National Theater’s creative and commercial leadership.”

Norris described Ross as “a world-class producer, a tireless supporter and promoter of both emerging and established artists, a great manager and businesswoman.”

Ross joined Channel 4 in 2000 and became head of its movie-making arm Film4 in 2003. In 2008, she became controller of film and drama. Under Ross, Film4 has built a worldwide reputation for developing and financing bold and distinctive films, such as Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” Kevin Macdonald’s “The Last King of Scotland,” and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”

Its forte has been to support British talent, backing such films as Clio Barnard’s “The Selfish Giant,” Bart Layton’s “The Imposter,” Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine,” Paddy Considine’s “Tyrannosaur” and “The Iron Lady,” directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Meryl Streep.

Current films on release are Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” and “Starred Up,” directed by David Mackenzie. Upcoming pics include Richard Ayoade’s “The Double,” Yann Demange’s ” ’71,” Mike Leigh’s “Mr Turner,” Lenny Abrahamson’s “Frank,” Sarah Gavron’s “Suffragette,” and “Carol,” directed by Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

During her stewardship of Channel 4 drama, Ross implemented a strategy that cemented a drama reputation based on risk and innovation. Pieces commissioned included “Shameless,” “Teachers,” “Not Only But Always,” “White Teeth,” “No Angels” and “Sex Traffic.”

Last year, she received the BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.

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