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SF Film Society Gets Hope
by Jay Randy Gordon
Ted Hope, the new director of the SF Film Society and International Film Festival. photo: SFFS
I was pleased to have my own “Ted Talk” with the new Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society,
. The Massachusetts multi-tasker and indie producer par excellence, who took the reins of the esteemed San Francisco Film Society on September 1, told me he embraces “big changes in life every ten years.” and was incredibly pleased to be working with the Film Society, producer of the oldest, continually running film festival in the Americas. 2013's 15-day
San Francisco International Film Festival
is slated for April 25-May 9.
Thanks to Lindsay Firestone and Marian Koltai-Levine for facilitating the candid call before Hope had to race out for a flight to the Toronto International Film Festival—undoubtedly a familiar scene for him. He clearly has experience doing interviews on the fly, indeed he said lets forgo the questions and just chat.
“I hope to fund more work in the Bay Area and to help extend the artists' reach,” noted Hope, a leading expert on—and producer of—independent films, having delivered three Sundance Grand Jury Prize winners, "What Happened Was ..." (1994), "The Brothers McMullen" (1995) and "American Splendor" (2003).
"The business of film has been oriented around the concepts of scarcity and control—where 50,000 titles can come out every year," Ted points out. "It would take nearly a century to [showcase] just a single year's output of films.”
“The film industry has not been able to keep up with what the tech industry has brought to the forefront. The business has been stuck in ways of doing things that are not good for business. Transformations need to occur to create a sustainable investment class to continue to help filmmakers market to the new niches.”
Hope would like to see business practices around scarcity make way for a “super abundance” of quality content, a super niche content world, where filmmakers can market freely to that special someone fascinated by their subject and style, although he admitted that engaging with communities is not a frictionless practice yet.
But if anyone can make it more efficient, it is Hope. He has also received numerous awards in that regard, including the 2009 Vision Award from the LA Filmmakers’ Alliance, his films "In the Bedroom" (2001), "21 Grams" (2003), and "The Savages" (2007) have garnered numerous Academy Award nominations while “American Splendor” (2003) and “Happiness” (1998) took the Critics Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival.
“I've long felt and spoken that really the future of cinema culture depends on the alliance between the creative community and the tech community, that how both the storytelling form and the business thereof evolves, is going to come more from Silicon Valley than it's going to come from Hollywood," Hope said on the occasion of his appointment to direct the SFFS.
"The Bay Area and San Francisco Film Society is centered right there. To bring that tech community, the venture capital world, the folks who really are dedicated to innovation into the mix, is something that I very much want to do. I think we are at a very similar moment of transformation, where that gap between the evolution of audiences, technology and artists has far surpassed the market and industry again. It is up to those who are flexible and nimble to point their way to new business models that can fund a whole new wave of creativity.”
"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," Hope concluded.
Before reaching out to others I know in San Francisco, I floated a call to a New York City colleague of Hope's, Slava Rubin, the CEO and co-founder of Indiegogo, who obliged me with a stellar quote: “Ted is a rare find. He's an icon in independent filmmaking, an innovator pushing the industry forward, and an evangelist willing to teach us all.”
"Ted Hope is a hero to so many in the independent film community," remarked producer Marc Lhormer, Founder and Artistic Director of November's Napa Valley Film Festival, who also produced “
” (2008). "We welcome him to the West Coast and look forward to working together."
It will be intriguing to see what Hope does in the coming year. Presumably, he will continue the Leggat legacy of educational initiatives and “Filmmaker360”, which offers a wide array of services to filmmakers and administers grant programs. If you take a look at Ted's
, you will see it includes articles about the evolving film industry for various publications, masterfully displaying the teacher/lecturer/educator Hope embodies. He also started and curated a monthly screening series of shorts at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
In our conversation, Hope exudes a thankful vibe, crediting the assistance of others who have helped him along the way. He also noted his love for movies as linear 90-to-120 minute passive events that can be “near-religious experiences,” appreciating both shorts and features and a variety of styles from varied budget levels, singling out Sean Baker who works within the modest budgets of five to low six-figures, including "
" (2012) and
Prince of Broadway
In discussing October's upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival, Ted reminded me that he exec produced the dramedy “
” (2011), written and directed by Martin Donovan which screened at last year's festival. “We left it up to people in the audience to come along for the ride,” he noted of the well-thought-out film with a highly climactic ending.
Hope says that a big appeal of his new job is "the culture of innovation" and access to Silicon Valley. With Hope's energy feeding SFFS's already ample powers, even greater achievements are imaginable for the institution.
Jay Randy Gordon, author of '
' and co-founder of the
, can be reached
Posted on Sep 19, 2012 - 03:07 AM