As co-directors George Eldred and Laura Thielen exit from Colorado’s Aspen Film this month after a twenty-year tenure, after an exhaustive search their replacement as artistic director of the non-profit, who will program Aspen Filmfest, Aspen Shortsfest
and Academy Screenings, is Maggie Mackay.
Until last year, Mackay was Senior Programmer of Film Independent’s Los Angeles Film Festival. She first joined Film Independent in 2003, working closely with LAFF programmers Rachel Rosen and Doug Jones, who subsequently left to join the San Francisco International Film Festival and Massachusetts’ Images Cinema,
respectively. She also worked with LAFF artistic director David Ansen
, and after his 2014 exit focused on her long-term gig as Film Independent’s Director of Nominations for the Spirit Awards as well as an LAFF showcase for high school shorts.
“We are lucky to have such a wonderful asset to the arts community and know that Maggie will take Aspen Film to new and dynamic heights,” said Aspen Film Board President Lee Rittvo, who appointed John Thew as Aspen Film’s executive director on July 1. Eldred and Thielen programmed the 36th–their last– Aspen Filmfest which unspools September 25-30, 2015. They will introduce Mackay to her new audience then.
Mackay grew up in Manhattan’s Soho attending multiple movies a week with her mother at Film Forum. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Film Studies from the University of Delaware and a Master’s degree in Literature and Film Studies from Claremont Graduate University. Mackay has previously served as Senior Coordinator of the Sundance Documentary Fund, and programmer and consultant for numerous film festivals, including AFI Fest and the Sarasota Film Festival. She also worked in production, working for Sacha Baron Cohen, but missed programming and returned to the LAFF.
Mackay will continue to live in Los Angeles with her husband, KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox, and two children, with frequent trips to Aspen throughout the year and attendance at all film festivals and special events.
Mackay has long admired the Aspen festival and enjoyed a collegial relationship with Thielen. “The festival has a great reputation,” Mackay told me. “I admire how well the filmmakers are taken care of, how engaged the audience is.” Mackay looks forward to not only programming the September Aspen Fest, which presents 20-24 feature films– “it’s a good mix of international and U.S. narrative films and feature docs,” she says–but the Academy-qualifying shorts festival, one of the most respected in the country, and the holiday season Academy showcase, when many Academy members repair to Aspen on vacation. “They can see films in the right environment, inside a theater, sitting with other people,” she says.
Other festivals seeking key programmers include Napa, which recently brought on ex-USA Today critic Claudia Puig (she took a buyout), as well as the Ashland Independent Film Festival, whose director Joanne Feinberg has moved on. They seek someone willing to relocate to the town that also houses the famed Ashland Shakespeare Festival. UPDATE: They found their man.