Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mutiny at the Denver Film Festival

Mile High Mutiny: Major Shakeup Hits Denver Fest
The Starz Film Center in Denver.

The Denver Film Society, which has three decades of the Denver International Film Festival to its credit was the scene of a massive walkout by about 21 employees, which according to Indie Wire. Certainly among them were long term veterans of the organization, Festival Director Britta Erickson and Artistic Director Brit Withey, as well as co-founder Ron Henderson. After this showdown last week directed at the policies of new DFS, Burleigh “Bo” Smith, who joined the organization in October and was formerly the head of film, video and concerts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for 21 years, Britta Erickson was named interim executive director and Smith was let go according to the Denver Post. Most of those who walked will return to work Monday. What economic cuts will ensue has yet to be seen but discussion was already taking place as the walkout began.

This news is exemplary of problems besetting a number of other large and small festivals curretnly. Often the problem is that the board does not support the director or understand the basis for the festival. It's been rumored that the AFI Fest is facing similar problems. However in the case of Denver it was a problem of the staff not being supported by the director. For a moment the economic crisis and the need for cutbacks was cited by the director and the board but that was quickly denied as the issue for Denver. Economic cutbacks are however up for discussion and will be implemented in the case of Denver and for most other festivals and the fall out will be watched by the industry and by filmmakers alike.

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