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Film Independent Names McManus and Welsh Co-Presidents to Replace Embattled Academy Chair Dawn Hudson

Film Independent Names McManus and Welsh Co-Presidents to Replace Embattled Academy Chair Dawn Hudson

Film Independent has appointed Sean McManus and Josh Welsh to the newly created positions of co-presidents. McManus, formerly a Senior Director, and Welsh, formerly Director of Artist Development, are replacing former exec director Dawn Hudson. She left her post at FIND last June to become the Academy’s new CEO (the LA Times reports that she is under fire from the Academy Board of Governers; here’s LA Weekly’s take).

McManus and Welsh will work together running FIND’s programs. Board chairman Bill Condon says: “They are a seasoned team whose skills and expertise complement one another beautifully. They collectively possess 25 years of experience, in every area of the organization, and it’s clear they have a shared vision that will take Film Independent to its next level of growth.”

McManus adds: “Dawn instilled core values in us and in Film Independent, especially freedom of expression, artistic excellence, inclusiveness and accessibility. We are honored to follow in her footsteps and are ready to move full steam ahead.”

More on McManus and Welsh below:


Sean Mc Manus has nearly 20 years of experience building organizations that have come to make a meaningful impact in both the domestic and international film and non-profit worlds. He joined Film Independent in 1998 as Development Director and was promoted to Senior Director in 2006, overseeing 36 full-time staff members and more than 100 contract employees including management and administration, fund development, marketing and communications, technology, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, Los Angeles Film Festival and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series. He has played a key role in engaging and galvanizing stakeholders, resulting in the expansion of the organization’s annual budget from approximately $1.6 million to more than $8.5 million, in addition to securing $3.5 million in yearly in-kind contributions.      Mc Manus began his career in the non-profit sector as a development professional, advancing over five years in positions of increasing responsibility at USC and serving for one year as the Director of Major Gifts at AFI.

Outside of his professional efforts at Film Independent, Mc Manus is the Chairman Emeritus, having served two terms as Chairman of the Board of Directors and ten years as a Board Member, at The Trevor Project, a national non-profit organization determined to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Under his leadership, the organization was nationally accredited as the expert in its field and was recently honored for its service by the President of the United States.  He is a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business and grew up in Rochester, New York with longstanding family ties to the Eastman Kodak Company.  He lives with his long-time partner and their beloved Wheaten Terrier, Camden, in the Hollywood Hills.


For the last ten years, Josh Welsh has been responsible for the overall design, strategic planning and implementation of all of Film Independent’s Artist Development programs. They include the Filmmaker Labs for Directors, Screenwriters, Producers and Documentarians, Fast Track, and the Grants Program, and four years administering Film Independent’s signature diversity program, Project Involve. Welsh designed the curriculum for all of the Labs and has overseen the selection of all Film Independent Fellows since 2001. In addition, he has been Film Independent’s year-round industry liaison for filmmakers in the Artist Development programs and maintains relationships with many of its alumni.  Welsh also manages the Grants Program, which includes Donor Named Fellowships, Sloan Producers Grants and in-kind grants. In 2009-2010, he oversaw the Netflix FIND Your Voice competition and is currently administering the selection of writers and designing the curriculum for the Fox Writer’s Intensive with Fox Studios.

Prior to working on the Filmmaker Labs, Josh was in Film Independent’s Programming Department where he helped select films for the Festival Buzz, Documentary Buzz and New Visions Screening Series. He worked with the Spirit Award Nominating Committees, as well as the blue-ribbon committees that determine winners of cash grants at the Spirit Awards. He has been a judge for UCLA’s Screenwriting Showcase and the Outfest Screenwriting Competition, a juror for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, served as thesis advisor in UCLA’s graduate producing program, and has spoken on numerous panels and at film schools. Before moving to Los Angeles, Josh earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in Philosophy from Kenyon College. He lives with his wife Bonnie Gavel and their daughter Isla, and in his spare time he is lead singer in the alt-country band Meatyard, whose second album, Sweet Old Green Life, came out in 2010.

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