By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com
Hope Arrives for Indie Film as San Francisco Film Society Names New Executive Director
“Ted Hope is the perfect choice to build on the San Francisco Film Society’s already strong reputation for supporting filmmakers and its established excellence in exhibition and education.” said Pat McBaine, SFFS board president. “His absolute grasp of the current state of film culture, his innovative approach to each of his projects, his dedication to bringing artists’ visions to the screen and his bold plans for the Film Society are exciting to us all. We are truly fortunate to have one of the industry’s most creative thinkers take the helm going forward.”
“The film world—be it in content, creation, business or audience—has changed significantly over the last twenty years and we all must change with it,” said Hope. “It’s time that the film industry looked not just to Hollywood but instead to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, and San Francisco Film Society is a major artistic voice positioned right in the heart of this vibrant cultural location. This unique opportunity to work with the Film Society’s diverse communities is an extension of producing in the fullest of ways—allowing me to engage with the art form as a whole, at every level of activity. I am deeply honored and humbled to continue the extraordinary legacy of Bingham Ray and Graham Leggat, which is evident in SFFS’s dedication to empowering artists to get their work not just made but also truly appreciated, and by their support for the complete cinematic enterprise, process and community.”
“No one in the film industry is better positioned to lead us into the next phase of the San Francisco Film Society’s evolution than Ted Hope. His vision for the Film Society—which bridges the legacy of the organization as a champion of independent and international cinema and its potential to be a leading force in the future of moving-image media in our increasingly digital world—is exciting to us all.” said Interim Executive Director Melanie Blum.
A survey of Hope’s films, numbering close to 70, includes many highlights and breakthroughs of the last two decades, including recently Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene and Greg Mottola’s Adventureland. As generative as he is with movies, Hope is no less so in business; in 1990 he cofounded with James Schamus the production and sales powerhouse Good Machine, which was sold to Universal in 2002. Known within the industry for having an extraordinary ability to recognize emerging talent, Hope has more than 20 first features to his credit, including those of Alan Ball, Todd Field, Michel Gondry, Hal Hartley, Nicole Holofcener and Ang Lee, among others.
Hope joins the San Francisco Film Society at an exciting moment in its 55-year history, during a period in which the organization has recently experienced its greatest successes to date across each of its main program areas: exhibition, education and filmmaker services. Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker support program, offers unparalleled assistance and opportunities designed to foster creativity and further the careers of independent filmmakers nationwide and oversees one of the largest film grant programs in the country, which disperses nearly $1 million annually to incubate and support innovative and exceptional films. Recent Filmmaker360 success stories include Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon which received two SFFS/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grants totaling $105,000 for postproduction, and went on to win both Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or. The crown jewel of the Film Society’s exhibition program is the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25–May 9, 2013), the longest-running film festival in the Americas and a beloved showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation. Additional year-round programming has included daily screenings and events at San Francisco Film Society Cinema, a robust Fall Season of specialized film series, and countless individual public and members’ screenings and events with special guests in person. The SFFS education department offers year-round media literacy programs to over 10,000 K–12 students, college and university programs to help students transition into the professional filmmaking arena, and more than 100 classes and workshops per year in film craft and film studies for filmmakers, filmgoers and cinephiles of all ages and skill levels.
Hope has been recognized personally with numerous awards and accolades, and his films have received some of the industry’s most prestigious honors including two Academy Award nominations for The Savages (2007), two Academy Award nominations and five BAFTA nominations for 21 Grams (2003) and five Academy Award nominations for In the Bedroom (2001). He also holds a record at the Sundance Film Festival: three of his 23 Sundance entries (American Splendor, The Brothers McMullen  and What Happened Was… ) have won the Grand Jury Prize; no producer has won more.
In addition to his efforts in independent film production, Hope is one of the most influential and followed voices in independent film on social media, with multiple blogs and more than 20,000 Twitter followers. He has curated an indie film screening series for the last three years, most recently at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center. A prolific writer on issues facing the film industry and film culture, Hope’s work has appeared in numerous media outlets. He blogs regularly on the popular Hope For Film and cofounded Hammer To Nail, a film review site focused on truly independent film. Hope consults regularly on the future of cinema and participates in lectures around the world including the Forbes Global CEO Conference and as the keynote speaker at Sundance’s Art House Convergence and the Power To The Pixel transmedia conference.
Hope succeeds Bingham Ray, who served as the San Francisco Film Society’s executive director for only ten weeks before his untimely death in January. An independent film legend, Ray brought his well-developed creative and business acumen to the running, reimagining and reinvigorating of the Film Society, bolstering its theatrical programming at SF Film Society Cinema, streamlining its communications and exploring dynamic digital initiatives intended to expand the reach of its film festival programs and educational efforts.
Ray in turn succeeded Graham Leggat, who served as the San Francisco Film Society’s executive director from October 2005 to June 2011 before his death from cancer in August 2011. Leggat’s tenure saw the transformation of the organization from an annual fifteen-day film festival producer into a year-round cultural institution with a national impact, significantly increasing activity in all programmatic areas.
“Ted is obviously as engaged as we are in thinking about how movies can continue to thrive and be a vital, dynamic force moving forward and has the knowledge and expertise to ably lead us into the future.” said SFFS Director of Programming Rachel Rosen. “It’s been an incredibly sad and challenging year for the Film Society, so we’re especially excited to enter the next stage of the organization working with someone who clearly shares our sense of mission about this art form that we all love.”
San Francisco Film Society
Building on a legacy of more than 50 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Film Society is a national leader in exhibition, education and filmmaker services.
The Film Society presents 365 days of exhibition each year, reaching a total audience of 130,000 people. Its acclaimed education program introduces international, independent and documentary cinema and media literacy to more than 10,000 teachers and students and presents more than 100 classes and workshops annually. Through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, essential creative and business services and funding totaling millions of dollars are provided to deserving filmmakers of all levels.
The Film Society seeks to elevate all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge. A 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, it is largely donor and member supported. Patronage and membership provides discounted prices, access to grants and residencies, private events and a wealth of other benefits.
For more information visit sffs.org.