One of the top film programming jobs in America has now become two. With Film Society of Lincoln Center program director and New York Film Festival selection committee head Richard Peña stepping down at the end of this year, he will be replaced by two people: Kent Jones as director of programming of the New York Film Festival and Robert Koehler as the FSLC’s year-round director of programming.
Jones’ appointment represents a full-circle homecoming: In 2009, he left his position as FSLC’s associate director of programming and editor-at-large at Film Comment after 10 years at the organization and six months after the arrival of then-excecutive director Mara Manus.
Koehler is a veteran film critic who most recently served as director of programming at AFI Fest Los Angeles, where he helped create a new competition section, “New Lights.”
However, the most significant element of the hires may be in FSLC executive director Rose Kuo’s acknowledgement that the scope of her organization has grown to the point that the festival demands a separate overseer from the year-round programming.
Kuo told Indiewire that the idea to split the job came from Pena. “He said, ‘I think this has become two jobs, not one.’ But when I went our to interview people, I thought, ‘How do you pick out two people who will be complementary?’ Even though it’s two jobs, it’s a collaboration. they have to work in sync. They have to share a single vision.”
Kuo pointed to film industry dynamic-duo role models such as Michael Barker and Tom Bernard at Sony Pictures Classics, Gary Meyer and Tom Luddy at the Telluride Film Festival and Howard Cohen and Eric D’Arbeloff at Roadside Attractions.
Her answer came through Jones, who proposed the team. “Kent and Bob wanted to work in partnership,” said Kuo. “When the board and I met to talk about it, it made sense to us. It was really going to be people specific in terms of finding two people who can work together and have a mutual respect.”
In this case, said Kuo, “They finish each others’ sentences. We looked for a single program director and in that process stumbled on two people who wanted to do it together.”
Here’s the full release.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center, America’s pre-eminent non-profit film organization, announced today the appointment of Kent Jones as Director of Programming, New York Film Festival and Robert Koehler as Director of Programming, Year Round. As announced previously, after 25 years, Program Director and New York Film Festival Selection Committee Head Richard Peña will step down from his post at the end of 2012 and Jones and Koehler will then move into their new programming roles with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Peña will continue his involvement with the Film Society of Lincoln Center in helping design and organize a new educational initiative.
FSLC’s Executive Director, Rose Kuo said, “Richard Pena has played a fundamental role in defining our organization and its commitment to discovering and supporting the best and most important cinema in the world. Kent Jones and Bob Koehler, whose thinking and writing about cinema I deeply respect, are the perfect team to build upon Richard’s vision and carry it forward.”
The appointment of two directors to the programming team will allow the Film Society to better serve the needs of an organization that has recently expanded its operations with the opening of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film. In addition to continuing the Film Society’s trademark programs, Kent Jones and Robert Koehler will continue to develop new programming initiatives and film series including first runs, family films, new media, educational and artist development programs.
“The New York Film Festival has always been a beacon to me – when I was young and pouring over the yearly schedule in the Sunday Times, when I moved to New York in my 20s and started to actually attend the festival, and later when I served on the selection committee” said Kent Jones. “It means a lot to me to be entrusted with its stewardship after Richard Peña, to whom I owe a lot – I’m far from alone on that count. I’m excited to be working with Rose Kuo, with Bob Koehler, with Scott Foundas, with Gavin Smith, with Marian Masone, and with the whole team at the Film Society, many of whom are old friends and work colleagues. We’ll be working together to keep our part of cinema culture alive and thriving.”
Chairman of the FSLC’s Board of Directors Ann Tenenbaum said, “With Kent stewarding the New York Film Festival–which celebrates its 50 anniversary this month–and Robert overseeing the varied and expanding needs of our growing organization, we are primed to move forward and meet the evolving demands of the future of film. We are thrilled to welcome them both.”
“I’m delighted and honored to join the country’s finest cinema presentation organization,” said Robert Koehler “especially at a time when it is embarking on a new, exciting and innovative chapter in its great history.”
Kent Jones’ writing on film has been published throughout the world in numerous magazines, newspapers, catalogues, websites and journals. In 2007 a collection of his writings, Physical Evidence, was published by Wesleyan University Press, and he recently edited the first English-language volume of writings on Olivier Assayas, published by Filmmuseum Synema Publikationem. He is a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Jones has collaborated for many years on documentaries with Martin Scorsese, beginning with My Voyage to Italy (2001) on which he served as co-writer. He and Scorsese co-wrote and co-directed A Letter to Elia (2010), an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning film about the director Elia Kazan. Scorsese was the producer and narrator of Jones’ 2007 documentary about Val Lewton, The Man in the Shadows.
Jones began in programming with Bruce Goldstein at Film Forum, and served as the American representative for the Rotterdam International Film Festival from 1996 to 1998. From 1998 to 2009, he was Associate Director of Programming at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, and from 2002 to 2009 he served on the New York Film Festival selection committee. He has also served on juries at film festivals around the world, including Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Venice and Cannes. In 2009, he was named Executive Director of The World Cinema Foundation.
Robert Koehler is a film critic and festival programmer and has served as an instructor and programmer for UCLA Extension’s Sneak Preview program from 2003-2007. In 2003, he developed the successful, innovative film program, “The Films That Got Away,” an ongoing series presenting significant recent work that has previously not screened in Los Angeles. Institutions with which the series has collaborated include UCLA Film Archive, the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Film Festival. In 2009, he was appointed director of programming at AFI Fest Los Angeles, where he helped create a new and focused competition section titled “New Lights,” as part of AFI Fest’s programming concept as a festival-of-festivals.
A graduate of UCLA, Koehler was a theater critic for the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times during the 1980s and 1990s. He has been a contributor to Variety since 1994. As a film critic, he has written for Variety, Cinema Scope, Cineaste, Film Comment, IndieWire, The Christian Science Monitor and Filmjourney.org, as well as Cahiers du Cinema (France and Spain) and Die Tagezeitung. His blog column analyzing film festivals can be read at Filmlinc.com, the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. He is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics, and has served on festival juries in Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, Indie Lisboa, Copenhagen, Montreal, Mexico City, Santiago, Palm Springs, Bermuda and Miami. Among his published work are chapters in the books “Cine Argentino 1999-2009,” “On Film Festivals,” from Wildflower Press, and “American Comedy,” published by the San Sebastian Film Festival.