The Palm Springs International Film Society has announced artistic director Michael Lerman is stepping down from the position now that his three-year contract has expired. Lerman is being replaced by Lili Rodriguez, who in the role will oversee the artistic direction of a handful of upcoming Palm Spring events, including ShortFest (June 18-24) and next year’s PSIFF. Rodriguez will also oversee the Palm Spring Film Society’s membership and community outreach programs throughout the year.
Lerman told the Desert Sun his exit was the result of the Film Society wanting a full-time employee to serve as artistic director. Lerman is also a filmmaker, producer, and serves as a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival. Lerman will continue to assist TIFF and write a new screenplay.
“I’ve been a filmmaker a long time and every year I say I’m going to do it and then every year it’s like, ‘This is so much work, Palm Springs is so much work’ and then, where did my year go?” Lerman said. “I need to buckle down and do that. Life will eventually pass you by if you don’t focus on the project you want to do.”
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Harold Matzner, the chairman of PSIFF, explained the change in a statement, saying, “The Festival needed a full-time employee that exclusively programmed, developed and operated Palm Springs International Film Society programs. Lili lives for film. The improved performance of ShortFest under her direction has been nothing short of remarkable. She is extremely intelligent and talented and going to be a superstar in the festival world.”
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work alongside such great collaborators along the way,” Rodriguez added. “Palm Springs and the Film Society have been an amazing home and I look forward to working with our team and the community to promote the organization’s vision at a high level of excellence.”
Rodriguez has previously worked for the Film Society as a year-round Program Manager, a Director of Programming, and the Festival Director of ShortFest. Prior to joining the Film Society team, Rodriguez worked as a film projectionist. Lerman has nothing but praise for the incoming artistic director.
“Love is not a strong enough word for how I feel about how Lili does,” Lerman told the Desert Sun. “I think she’s amazing. I think she is a superstar and I think the festival is going to continue to be great and I’m really excited to see what she’s going to do with it. I do think her local presence will be helpful to the festival, but I also think, more than anything, we worked so closely together and I am just so excited about Lili. I don’t think they could have made a better choice. She’ll be amazing.”
The next Palm Springs International Film Festival will run January 2-13, 2020.