The most famous festival devoted to American cinema will now have a Brit from television behind its documentary films. Tabitha Jackson, who was a commissioning editor at Channel 4 Television in London, has been named to replace the departed Cara Mertes as Director, Documentary Film Program. Thank goodness the doc world is such a font of unity and supportiveness. Shouldn’t be any sniping about this at all.
Jackson has credentials: Before her Channel 4 gig, she was Editor, More 4 at Channel 4, where she ran day-to-day operations for what is the UK’s sixth largest digital channel and ran the two key areas of original programming — True Stories and More 4 Arts. She has been associate with such nonfiction standouts as “The Imposter,” “The Cove,” “Burma VJ” and “Which Way Home.”
In a prepared statement released Friday, Sundance Executive Director Keri Putnam said:
“Tabitha’s professional experience, demonstrated leadership, and passion for the field make her an ideal candidate to lead our documentary program at this time. We were impressed with her infectious enthusiasm and fresh approach to storytelling, creating engaging content, and discovering new voices. I am confident that Tabitha will be a great leader in service of our core mission and will advance and deepen our impact and reach on a global level.”
After relocating from London to Los Angeles, Jackson will start supervising a staff of eight on December 6. What immediately makes her a power player is the fact that she’ll oversee the Sundance Documentary Fund, which was originally set up by Mertes’ predecessor, Diane Weyermann, with money from the Open Society Institute, and will put at Jackson’s disposal $1.8 million in grant money for independent documentaries globally. This in addition to hosting five annual labs for documentary filmmakers, and various other activities in support of filmmakers. If you want to meet Tabitha Jackson, look for the crowd of hungry doc makers at the next festival you attend. They’ll be trying to meet her too.