NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ film and media organization, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its annual film festival last year, has announced the upcoming departure of Executive Director Robert Kushner. A public search by the Board of Directors is underway for a new director as Kushner leaves to pursue new development projects. Concurrently, the festival is ending its programming partnership with Outfest and promoting Nick McCarthy to Director of Programming. The former Programming & Operations Manager’s new appointment includes overseeing all of NewFest’s year-round curation, as well as the annual New York’s LGBTQ Film Festival.
“We’ve had a wonderful collaboration with the Outfest programming team, putting together the best of LGBTQ film from around the world,” McCarthy told IndieWire. “We’re excited to bring programming in-house and hire a local New York City team. I’m looking forward to remaining close with Outfest as we both work towards the common goal of promoting the visibility of contemporary queer voices.”
McCarthy described the split as very amicable, emphasizing the transition as an opportunity to further support New York’s local queer film community. NewFest’s focus as it moves into this next chapter, McCarthy said, is about “being on the ground in New York City and capturing the energy here, because every festival has their own voice to contribute.”
The partnership with Outfest began in 2011, the same year the festival moved to the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In 2014, Kushner brought NewFest back to Chelsea, its former neighborhood, with Outfest remaining as programming partner. In her role as Outfest programming director, Lucy Mukerjee, who recently became a senior programmer of the Tribeca Film Festival, also led Newfest programming. In addition to directing all Newfest programming, McCarthy will oversee three new programming positions to be added in the coming months: a programmer, a shorts programmer, and a programming coordinator.
Kushner took over as Executive Director in late 2014 after having served on NewFest’s board of directors since 2010. Over the course of his tenure, NewFest grew from a one-screen summer festival into a year-round non-profit organization. Kushner led a number of significant changes to the festival, including the transition from its former home at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, moving the festival from summer to fall, and engaging corporate sponsorships, including Presenting Sponsor HBO.
Kushner hired McCarthy in 2016, and together they created annual and monthly programs that make LGBTQ film accessible throughout the year. That includes a monthly series NewFest at The Center Presents; a three-day Pride month event OutCinema, in partnership with NYC Pride and SVA Theatre; the retrospective series Coming Out Again at Quad Cinema; and a summer outdoor screening program in partnership with Rooftop Films.
“Leading this organization in its mission to promote and share the wide-ranging voices of the LGBTQ community through film is by far the most fulfilling role of my career,” said Kushner in a press release. “At a time when NewFest is ready to re-assert its independence and stature as a leading platform for queer films and filmmakers, I have unwavering confidence in NewFest’s dynamic year-round staff and am excited to pass the baton on to a new generation of leaders.”
“Personally and professionally, Robert has been a consistently perceptive mentor; his commitment to growing the organization while recognizing, engaging, and fostering the skills and talents of his staff has been unparalleled. The NewFest staff will dearly miss him,” McCarthy said.
The 4th Annual OutCinema, with NYC Pride and SVA Theatre, will take place June 17 – 19 and the 31st NewFest Annual New York LGBT Film Festival will take place October 23 – 29.