BREAKING: Veteran indie film producer Ted Hope has been named executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. He will start the job September 1. It is a surprise move. But Hope will leave New York City, where he was a pillar of the indie film movement through Good Machine, This Is That and Double Hope Films, to lead the Film Society into the future.
Hope succeeds Bingham Ray, who spent 10 months as the San Francisco Film Society’s executive director for only ten weeks before his untimely death during the Sundance Film Festival last January. Ray had just started the effort to reinvigorate 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 oversaw 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. The Film Society is 55 years old this year. Read More »
Sundance Awards 2012: ‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’ And ‘The House I Live In’ Win Grand Jury Prizes, ‘The Surrogate’ Cast
Tonight’s Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony was an emotional roller coaster. The event began characteristically late with a parade of Sundance staff taking to the stage with a tiara and an apology from Festival Director John Cooper who said that actress Parker Posey wouldn’t emcee as originally scheduled because she had taken ill. “She was going to be the Sundance Queen,” Cooper said while displaying her regalia for the evening. As a last minute stand in, Black Rock director Katie Aselton took over for Posey.
Then the light mood turned dark as a large picture of indie maverick Bingham Ray who died here earlier in the week flashed on the screen. The room went silent and Cooper read from a eulogy put together by Ray’s longtime poker buddies: Magnolia Pictures chief Eamonn Bowles, Sony Classics SVP Tom Prassis, Sawyer Studios head Arnie Sawyer, and producer Ben Barenholtz. Cooper choked back tears and had to stop briefly to regain his composure. Afterward, there was quiet applause. And the show went on.
Without Posey the onstage antics were minimal. Most winners skipped acceptance speeches after Cooper advised, “Just say thank you and go on,” and Aselton added, “Really, nobody really cares…”
But then director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwie: Never Sorry) collected her Special Jury Prize claiming she was “too nervous to say much”. She gave some quick thanks — and then asked the audience to lift a hand and give the finger en masse. She took a photo and explained, “I’ll send this to Ai Weiwei” – a gesture in support of China’s most famous visual artist who has been in and out of house arrest.
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Tonight’s Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony will feature a tribute for Bingham Ray, whose abrupt passing took all the joy out of Sundance for so many in the independent sphere who treasured him, and for journalists who admired his sharp wit and his love for indie film. In the meantime, we present a lovely video tribute sent to us by documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler, who in under four minutes captured the spirit of Ray and why he and his peers work so hard to launch artistic voices and struggle to bring worthy independent films to the limelight. Sometimes, that dogged effort and faith in an unsung filmmaker or an out of left field film pays off in the most incredible ways.
“Like so many others,” Cutler wrote me, “I was deeply affected by the loss of Bingham Ray. Bingham and his team at October Films distributed my first film (The War Room) and he was very much a mentor to me, showing me the ropes of independent film distribution, taking me under his wing on the festival circuit, and being a friend to me in many ways over the years. When the news of Bingham’s passing came this week I dug up a four-minute piece that Paco de Onis and I made about Bingham in 1996. It features footage of Bingham and the gang at October receiving the news that Secrets and Lies was nominated for an Oscar.”
R.I.P. Bingham Ray
EXCLUSIVE: As the Sundance Film Festival ponders how it will honor indie icon Bingham Ray — word is festival director John Cooper will read a eulogy penned by some of Ray’s friends during Saturday’s awards ceremony — Oscar-nominated Moneyball producer Rachael Horovitz has written a remembrance of her longtime friend and colleague. Ray died Monday after falling ill unexpectedly just before he was due in Park City.
What I learned from Bingham Ray
I met Bingham in the fall of 1996 when I went to the Toronto Film Festival as vp of acquisitions for Fine Line Features. Having previously been an independent producer of low-budget movies, I’d heard of this legendary figure, but had never gotten close enough to introduce myself. It was in the middle of the night at my first Dart Party (a Bingham tradition) that I got my chance and we began the conversation that continued until just a few weeks ago (see Lesson #4). Our friendship spanned some pretty rough times for each of us but, also, as was clear to me while his great life ended this past Monday, many of my best times were in his company: watching the sun burst into being on early May mornings in Cannes, closing Michael Stipe’s annual New Year’s party with a dance in the middle of a Soho sidewalk, brushing off the bitter chill of Park City winds, laughing out loud about unfaithful bosses and colleagues and their inanity, taking in the deeply nourishing air of a Telluride afternoon.
Bingham taught me much of what I know about life and the film world. Here are a few of the basic lessons I learned from the man:
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Sundance Institute just announced that independent film champion Bingham Ray passed away today. He was 58. ”It is with great sadness that the Sundance Institute acknowledges the passing of Bingham Ray, cherished independent film executive and most recently Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society. On behalf of the independent film community in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family. Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten.” He had taken ill unexpectedly and was hospitalized but stable in Provo, Utah. That’s nearby Park City where he was attending the Art House Convergence Conference before the Sundance Film Festival began. Formerly co-founder of October Films and United Artists president, Bingham Ray took over as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society effective November 7th and ran the San Francisco International Film Festival. “The board of directors and staff of the Film Society are stunned and deeply saddened by the untimely death of our executive director Bingham Ray. We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways,” said Pat McBaine, SFFS board president. “He shall be dearly missed.”
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2ND UPDATE: Official word now is that he was “taken ill unexpectedly” and remains hospitalized but stable in Provo, Utah. That’s nearby Park City where he was attending the Art House Convergence Conference before the Sundance Film Festival began. Formerly co-founder of October Films and United Artists president, Bingham Ray took over as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society effective November 7th and runs the San Francisco International Film Festival.