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by Eugene Hernandez
June 7, 2009 12:26 PM
5 Comments
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Mile High Coup: Denver Film Society Ousts Embattled Leader; Erickson Named Interim E.D.

The Board of Directors at the Denver Film Society has decided to remove Bo Smith as executive director of the organization and Britta Erickson has been named interim executive director, indieWIRE confirmed this morning. Details of the decision are being hammered out in a meeting in Denver this morning, according to two sources.

The DFS board met on Friday and made the move, according to a report by the Denver Post. Britta Erickson, who served as interim E.D. prior to the hiring of Bo Smith last fall, had served as Festival Director and was subsequently named Associate Director once Smith took the reins at the Denver Film Society. She was one of the more than twenty people at DFS and the Denver International Film Festival who were leaving in a dramatic mass exodus that emerged last week in protest of Bo Smith, a twenty-one year veteran from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston who had lost the support of key DFS leaders and core staffers alike.

Late last week, Smith tried to woo back Erickson in the wake the emerging mutiny reported by indieWIRE and she swiftly rejected the overture, an insider told indieWIRE. She had intended to leave the Denver film organization later this month after concluding a previously programmed film series. Erickson's close colleagues, Ron Henderson who co-founded the organization more than thirty years ago and Brit Withey, her key deputy, also both quit in protest and were backed by staffers who contacted indieWIRE asking to be added to the list of those leaving.

Starz FilmCenter General Manager Oaken Beeson told indieWIRE last week that he was leaving after being ignored by the board, adding that he didn't, "want to be there as the organization destroys itself." Group founder Ron Henderson had put together a proposal for the organization's Board of Directors aimed at retaining core DFS leaders and saving the organzation from the impending exodus. Henderson presented it to the board a week ago but it was rejected in a narrow board vote supporting Bo Smith. He quickly decided to leave saying, in a statement to indieWIRE, “As the Denver Film Society begins a new era, it is clearly time for me (as they did so often in those Hollywood movies I watched as a child) to ride off into the sunset. My fervent hope is that the Denver Film Society, in this volatile transitional period, lives happily ever after.”

Henderson, Withey and others are expected to be back to work at the Film Society's Starz Film Center tomorrow, the Denver Post reported.

[Brian Brooks contributed to this report.]

5 Comments

  • SteveDenver | June 9, 2009 5:07 AMReply

    Bo Smith showed incredible social inabilities which carried into relations with his staff. He had his own agenda and repeatedly failed to consider proposals from senior members of his staff. His "I know best" attitude was imperious and foolish, and a failure to lead.

    Starz had a booking agreement with Landmark Theater Corporation and Bo cut it off. It is rumored Bo had contentions with the LTC at his last position. I guess this would fall into the cutting off one's nose category (add: putting out one eye and crushing one hand).

    Good riddance to his attitude. As for landing on his feet, if he got the golden parachute of $100k, he should be okay.

  • dskolnick | June 8, 2009 7:24 AMReply

    Bo Smith is a skilled and innovative programmer. I have admired his work at Boston Museum of Fine Arts for many years. I don't know the details of what happened in Denver, but I hope both Bo and the organization land on their feet.

  • kathrot | June 8, 2009 3:51 AMReply

    bo smith certainly isn't "toast", nor is he a loser. obviously this arrangement didn't work for bo or the employees of DIFF, but the man is an internationally respected programmer with a long and successful career at the Boston MFA.

  • TheJeff | June 7, 2009 9:39 AMReply

    Great news about the return of Ron, Brit, and Britta! Here's hoping that the equally important Keith and Natasha are staying as well. DIFF was just starting to feel like a major festival (and SFC a real cinemateque) when all of this went down.

    Even more than the festival, I was concerned about the year-round programming at the FilmCenter. Since his appointment, Keith had been putting together wonderful programs, including lots of classics, but there have been very few reasons to go to SFC during the past six months, and now I'm wondering if Mr. Smith's programming oversight might be to blame.

    I've been very surprised that they haven't picked up the Janus reissues of Jeanne Dielman, Dillinger is Dead, and Amarcord (though I understand the latter will finally hit a Denver Landmark theater in September). I've still got my fingers crossed for Rialto's reissue of Z.

    I've been a member for nearly ten years. My membership expires in September, and for the first time, I had no plans to renew it. I'm hoping that this turnaround will make me change my mind.

  • bandolrose | June 7, 2009 7:46 AMReply

    Get rid of the Board too. They are clearly out of touch and an incompetent bunch of idiots! Who wouldn't listen to Ron Henderson? Makes me sick. You are toast Bo - take the loser Board with you!