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Tony Safford To Leave Fox Searchlight After 18 Years

Tony Safford To Leave Fox Searchlight After 18 Years

I’ve known Safford since he was running the Sundance Film Festival back in the 80s, before he left Utah to come to LA and work in acquisitions at Miramax and Searchlight. I called him and he reassured me that bringing in Strache was his own doing.

Sure enough, Searchlight chiefs Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula’s plan is for Safford to transition out of the job and train Strache so that in March, Safford can move onto other things. It’s not a surprise to those who know him. In recent years, this ardent cinephile has increasingly put his energy into All Hands Volunteers, helping to rebuild destroyed areas from New Orleans to Haiti. “Steven and Nancy have been very accommodating and understanding,” says Safford. “It has been part of our strategy to make it a long runway.” 

Leaving Searchlight “has been in the works for a little while,” he says. “My interests have taken me other places. Other things are more important in the world. I’m a believer in that humanitarian disaster relief space, which has diminished my interest in film. I’ve been involved in great films, but they seem to come few and far between these days.”

Safford was instrumental in bring Julie Taymor to Fox Searchlight with “Titus,” and cherishes working with Terrence Malick on “The Tree of Life” and Benh Zeitlin on “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” “I thought about quitting after ‘Tree of Life,’ because I believe I’ll be involved in no greater movie,” he says. “For me, ‘Tree of Life’ is the end of cinema; ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ its new beginning.” 

So he felt it was time, “while I have my wits and my health, to turn to new adventures.” He’ll leave in March, working to get Strache up to speed as the company’s new senior vp singularly in charge after Safford leaves. 
Being at Fox “afforded me resources and knowledge and worldwide connections that are valuable to me,” Safford says as he seeks to move into the non-profit space. He’ll continue to consult on film and will teach a course on the independent film business at U Santa Barbara for the spring quarter. 

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