In a time of change for a number of leading U.S. film festivals, all eyes are on the Sundance Film Festival, which is preparing to announce new leadership in the wake of the departure of longtime head Geoff Gilmore last month.
The past year has been marked by leadership shifts at a number of fests, with many event heads diving into digital iniatives. Last year, Matt Dentler left his role atop SXSW to join Cinetic. He was replaced by Janet Pierson, who will open her first fest later this week. Christian Gaines left AFI Fest to join Withoutabox and then Paola Freccero left a shared post at the Tribeca Film Festival to join B-Side.
Also making waves was the departure last year by Los Angeles Film Festival head Rich Raddon, who resigned amidst controversy over his contribution to a campaign against marriage equality in California. Film Independent has been interviewing candidates and some have said they are closing in on a new fest head. In the interim, since Raddon’s departure, Rachel Rosen and Sean McManus are sharing fest chief duties.
The biggest shift of the bunch came when Geoff Gilmore left Sundance to become the Chief Creative Officer for Tribeca Enterprises, also aimed at developing digital initiatives. While insiders maintain that he won’t have a role at the Tribeca Film Festival at all, the fest was recently back in the news when TFF Artistic Director Peter Scarlet announced his departure. Executive director Nancy Schafer, director of programming David Kwok, and senior programmer Genna Terranova stepped into the spotlight this week when the event announced the slate for its eight annual fest.
Examining the recent rush of fest changes, Mike Jones surveyed the scene in a piece for indieWIRE. “[Gilmore’s] cross-country jump is only the latest in a trend of festival execs moving up, not only for a bigger paycheck, but for a bigger canvas — a way to expand art and indie film out of a broken domestic model and into a global one,” Jones wrote in indieWIRE. “Moreover, it shows that fests have turned into hunting grounds for certain companies looking for a different kind of exec — one who can take ideas formed within their microcosmic event and apply them to an international strategy.”
The vacancy at Sundance left a high-profile hole and since then many insiders have been speculating about who will step in to take the top spot at the leading U.S. fest. All eyes are, of course, on fest veteran programming head John Cooper, the in-house favorite for the job. Insiders began buzzing about a pending announcement today and officially, a Sundance spokesperson said the news of a new leader for the fest could come as early as tomorrow.