Rumors were circulating earlier this year that the Seattle International Film Festival (aka ‘SIFF’) was getting ready for more staff changes. The SIFF Board is currently still looking for a replacement for former Managing Director Mary Bacarella who left last year after a very short stint in the job. Bacarella joined SIFF in 2013 after a long run as the head honcho at the Seattle Space Needle. She replaced the popular Deborah Person the managing director from 2005 to 2013 who largely guided (and helped fund/raise funds) for SIFF to become a full-time, year round film exhibition arts organization. The SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center was largely funded through generous gifts from the Person family.
But, the film festival gossip mills were churning out whispers this summer that Carl Spence, the current Festival Director and “Chief Curator” was getting ready to exit SIFF, with the most popular theory being, he would take over as the new artistic director at the influential Palm Springs International Film Festival, the star studded, awards season bait-y January fest that is a distant cousin to SIFF (SIFF co-founder Darryl Macdonald also helped organize PSIFF). Those rumors got crushed a couple weeks back when Palm Springs announced they were hiring up and coming film honcho Michael Lerman as their new A.D.
The metaphorical grapevine is once again on fire today as SIFF announces that Carl Spence is indeed stepping down from his post and will be completely out the door by Spring of next year. Longtime SIFF Festival Director of Programming Beth Barrett has been appointed Interim Artistic Director. Spence has been with SIFF since 1994 and lives in West Seattle with his husband and children. Beth Barrett and her wife are both popular members of Seattle’s film community; she has been with SIFF since 2003 and many are speculating that Barrett is the front runner to be given the job permanently.
The SIFF Board did announce today that they hope to announce the name of the new Managing Director, “shortly”.
Spence has not announced what he will be doing following his exit from SIFF.
From today’s press release:
Spence began his career at SIFF in 1994, helping SIFF co-founders Darryl Macdonald and Dan Ireland grow the Festival to become one of the largest in North America. For the past 13 years Spence has led the organization’s artistic and educational programs, first as SIFF’s Artistic Director and then more recently as its Chief Curator and Festival Director. Spence also held curatorial leadership positions at the Palm Springs International Film Festival during this time and also helped launch the Orcas Island Film Festival in 2014.
“When I started at SIFF in 1994 on a three-month contract for the Festival’s 20th anniversary edition, I had no idea that it would turn into a journey of more than two decades,” said Spence. “I’m so proud of the work we’ve done together, transforming SIFF from a single major annual event into a vibrant year-round arts organization. I salute my colleagues at SIFF for their unwavering dedication to this aim and most importantly to the thousands of artists involved in the craft of filmmaking along with our film partners who have helped me provide films and experiences to millions of film lovers in Seattle.”
Under Spence’s leadership, SIFF built its flagship film center under the shadow of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, saved and revived two historic neighborhood cinemas (SIFF Cinema Uptown in Queen Anne and SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Capitol Hill) and supported SIFF’s transition into a major arts and cultural force for all things film. His deep passion and love for film will be his most beloved legacy and lasting gift to the organization and Seattle.
“SIFF’s major expansion has occurred concurrently with Carl curating outstanding film-centered experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world, while also building a world class programming team with a depth and breadth that rivals that of the top festivals in the world,” said Brian LaMacchia, SIFF Board President. “SIFF’s current success as a year-round film organization is due in large part to Carl’s passion and vision.”
Spence continued, “My career at SIFF has been filled with many exciting opportunities and it’s been a monumental journey to nurture and guide our exponential growth. But it’s time to start my next story in the arts. My favorite place in the world will continue to be the back of a completely full theatre as I watch an audience experiencing something awe-inspiring, funny, eye-opening, informative, and entertaining for the very first time.”
The 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival will be held May 18 – June 11, 2017. SIFF’s year round programming continues at its SIFF Film Center location at Seattle Center and at The Uptown Cinema and The Egyptian on Capitol Hill.