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Tom Perlmutter Stepping Down as NFB Chair

The man who enabled the NFB to create new models for production and audience engagement

Tom Perlmutter today announced his decision to step down as NFB Chair and Government Film Commissioner, effective December 31, 2013, in order to devote himself to thinking and writing about the long-term issues affecting the arts and public cultural organizations.

Perlmutter noted that “for some time now, I have been searching for a way to step back from the day-to-day responsibilities of the Film Commissioner and focus on long-term strategic issues. My deep engagement with the profound changes of the digital revolution made me acutely aware of how necessary it is to create a new framework of ideas for the ways in which we will need to think of, work in and finance cultural activities in the public sector. This is an ambitious undertaking which I believe I am uniquely qualified to take on and which I am convinced is fundamental to the future well-being of the country and its cultural agencies. But it is not something that can be done as an adjunct to my current work.”

He added that “with the new strategic plan well embedded, I have confidence that the seasoned core management team and staff can implement the ongoing changes necessary to ensure the NFB’s continued growth and leadership in innovation and creativity.”

Perlmutter will stay on at the NFB as a strategic advisor with a focus on the future of public space, the changing dynamics of creation and new financial opportunities anchored in the NFB’s mandate and its commitment to innovation. Perlmutter notes that immediately he “will begin working on two books. The first will assemble many of the writings that I have done over the past few years with a specific look at how to instigate and manage major institutional change in a time of ongoing and rapid disruption. The second is more ambitious and will set the philosophic foundations for the necessity of public space in a digital era.”

Perlmutter joined the National Film Board in December 2001 as Director General, English Program and became head of the organization in 2007. As NFB Chair, he initiated the radical digital transformation that resulted in the creation of the online Screening Room and hugely popular mobile apps. He was one of the earliest proponents of interactive works as a radically new art form and was invited widely to speak of the critical characteristics of the new form. He encouraged the development and vitality of Canada’s francophone minority communities, while also strengthening relations with other communities, especially those in the Far North. He was the first Commissioner to undertake a far ranging year-long nation-wide tour to meet with underserviced communities and learn how their needs could be better served.

Under Tom Perlmutter, the NFB undertook the digitization of its entire collection, continued its tradition of excellence in the production of documentaries and animation, supported the creation and development of interactive works, and forged crucial ties with major international partners. The NFB also won many prestigious awards and honours, including two Oscars® and seven Webbys, the Internet’s highest honour.

Perlmutter undertook the transformation of the NFB with no new funding and at a time of overall budgetary restrictions. He pushed innovative approaches to work flows, organizational structures and new partnerships which allowed the NFB to find significant internal savings each year to reinvest into the future.

The work of transformation was guided by two significant documents: the 2008-2013 Strategic Plan and the current strategic plan, both visionary works authored by Perlmutter.

The NFB confirmed that Claude Joli-Cœur, the current Assistant Commissioner, has been named the interim Commissioner. Joli-Cœur previously served in this capacity from December 2006 to June 2007. The process for appointing the next Commissioner will begin in 2014 and should be completed during the year.