In the latest significant shift to hit the independent film sector in recent months, longtime IFP executive director Michelle Byrd is stepping down after some seventeen years with the leading New York film nonprofit organization. She led the organization through a number of periods of change and growth since taking charge as leader in the Spring of '97.
Talking with indieWIRE, Byrd indicated that she has been working towards her departure for awhile now, notifying the IFP board last year that she was not interested in renewing her two-year contract this year. She added that after nearly 18 years at the organization it was time for a change, but she wanted to spend months working with her IFP colleagues to position it for the coming leadership shift.
She will remain in her post atop the Independent FIlmmmaker Project (IFP) through the end of this year. Her contract expires on December 31, 2009. She is meeting to find a new role, aiming to explore media, global issues and technology.
The replacement for Byrd will not be found within the organization, she indicated. IFP has enlisted Time Warner's Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search to find a new leader for the group.
"This is a community and an organization about which I care deeply and all of us are working collaboratively to ensure that a leadership change won't place any unnecessary stress on the organization," Byrd said in a statement. "I have great faith in our Deputy Directors, Amy Dotson in programming and membership, and Mitch Micich in finance and operations, and their ability to aid in a smooth transition."
When Byrd joined IFP in 1992, the independent film sector was on the cusp of dramatic expansion and awareness that continued through the 1990s. Once known as the Independent Feature Project, the organization was born out of a demand for greater representation and respect among indie filmmakers in the late '70s and early '80s. It grew to prominence with the expansion of the annual Independent Feature Film Market, a Fall event where American indie filmmakers would bring finished feature films hoping to score some sort of sale or secure an invitation from a film festival.
The annual IFFM waned in importance at the turn of this century, paving the way for a dramatic restructuring that essentially concluded with this year's event. The IFP event, as well as other new programs and labs, now showcases works-in-porgress, development and education, hoping to help filmmakers take tangible steps torwards getting films made.
"Michelle has been with IFP for seventeen years, twelve years as Executive Director, and has done as much as any individual to advance the cause of independent filmmaking in New York," said Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, IFP Board Chairman, in a statement being released today. "All of us at IFP will miss her immensely, but we also acknowledge that this is an opportunity for a new infusion of leadership, energy and direction, and we are excited to begin the search and open a new chapter in IFP's long history at the center of independent film."
The complete IFP press release is posted on the next page.
MICHELLE BYRD STEPPING DOWN AT END OF YEAR AFTER 12 YEARS AS IFP’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
For Immediate Release – New York, NY (June 5, 2009) – The Board of Directors of the Independent Filmmaker Project announced today that Michelle Byrd will be stepping down at the end of the year as Executive Director of the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers. Her contract expires on December 31, 2009.
Byrd has a long history with IFP, joining in 1992 to handle a number of membership and programming responsibilities before being promoted to Deputy Director in February 1996 and then Executive Director in April 1997. In her role as Executive Director she has overseen the strategic direction and growth of all of IFP’s activities, including:
- re-positioning the founding program (now called Independent Film Week™) and its shift away from completed work into a multi-day Project Forum for work still in development;
- establishing a strong working relationship with NYC government, most notably, the Mayor’s Office of Film Theatre & Broadcasting for which IFP has received a number of contracts to run programs, including IFP’s “Made in NY” Mentorship;
- increasing IFP’s international profile through the expansion of its No Borders International Co-Production Market;
- re-positioning the Gotham Independent Film Awards™ to include a select number of competitive awards and moving them to the start of awards season;
- launching IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs for narrative and documentary rough cuts and the organization’s fiscal sponsorship program;
- and bringing on some of IFP’s most respected and long-term funders such as The New York Times, Time Warner and its many divisions, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Most recently Byrd co-founded with the United Nations, Envision, a documentary film forum to address global issues.
“I informed the board of my decision to depart last November so that I could openly have meetings about my next professional journey and spend a solid year working with the board and staff to ensure a positive and smooth transition,” says Byrd. “This is a community and an organization about which I care deeply and all of us are working collaboratively to ensure that a leadership change won’t place any unnecessary stress on the organization. I have great faith in our Deputy Directors, Amy Dotson in programming and membership, and Mitch Micich in finance and operations, and their ability to aid in a smooth transition.”
Byrd is presently in discussions on her next move, one that will build upon her relationships in the media space and unify her interest in global issues and technology.
“Michelle has been with IFP for seventeen years, twelve years as Executive Director, and has done as much as any individual to advance the cause of independent filmmaking in New York,” said Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, IFP Board Chairman. “All of us at IFP will miss her immensely, but we also acknowledge that this is an opportunity for a new infusion of leadership, energy and direction, and we are excited to begin the search and open a new chapter in IFP's long history at the center of independent film."
Leading the executive search process on behalf of IFP’s Board of Directors will be Joerg M. Ziegler and Andrew C. LaValle of Time Warner’s Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search.
For Information on applying for IFP’s Executive Director position, please contact either:
Joerg M. Ziegler
Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search
-- or --
Andrew C. LaValle
Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search
About Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP)
After debuting with a program in the 1979 New York Film Festival, the nonprofit IFP has evolved into the nation's oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, and also the premier advocate for them. Since its start, IFP has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers - voices that otherwise might not have been heard. IFP fosters the development of 350 new feature and documentary films each year through its Project Forum of Independent Film Week, Independent Filmmaker Labs and projects in its fiscal sponsorship program. IFP publishes Filmmaker Magazine and produces the Gotham Independent Film Awards™, the first honors of the film awards season. IFP believes that independent films enrich the universal language of cinema, seeding the global culture with new ideas, kindling awareness, and fostering activism. The organization has fostered early work by leading filmmakers including Charles Burnett, Edward Burns, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Mira Nair and Kevin Smith. For information: www.ifp.org.