Above Photo: Erica and Richard
On the heels of a dramatic six months in which AIFF launched the AIFF Film Center on Ashland’s Main Street and a Virtual Festival with record-breaking attendance, AIFF is announcing a change in leadership. On July 1, Richard Herskowitz, who had served as Artistic and Executive Director since the two jobs were consolidated in early 2017, turned over the Executive Director position to Erica Thompson, who had been serving as the organization’s Managing Director. Herskowitz will continue in the more focused role of Artistic Director, guiding the festival’s artistic and educational programs and reporting to the organization’s Board of Directors alongside the Executive Director.
Marty Rosen, a retired newspaper reporter who, in her second career developed strategic plans and fundraising campaigns for theater companies in her native New York and for independent filmmakers and animators, is the newly elected chair of AIFF’s Board of Directors. She follows Ashland entrepreneur Stephen Sloan, who will continue to serve on the board.
“We have an extraordinary opportunity to further develop our online presence through Richard’s dynamic curatorial work, his film education programs, and his ability to engage independent filmmakers in dialogues on pressing issues,” Rosen said. “We are excited to have a rising managerial star in Erica Thompson, who we are confident will continue to embrace the challenges of these difficult times.”
Before coming to Ashland, Thompson received her BFA in Film in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and worked for three years at Milwaukee Film in various roles, including Filmmaker Services and Education Coordinator. Her initial role at AIFF was managing filmmaker hospitality in 2017, after which she intended to return to Milwaukee. However, Herskowitz invited her to return as Assistant to the Director in late 2017, then Director of Operations in 2018, and Managing Director in 2019. Thompson adds, “I'm inspired by the legacy of this festival and how beloved it is by a passionate and dedicated community of thoughtful viewers. I look forward to continuing to find creative ways to best serve our local community and am grateful for the opportunity to maintain and grow a platform for underrepresented voices and independent artists.”
Herskowitz came to Ashland in late 2015 as Director of Programming, before moving into the Artistic and Executive Director role in 2017. His prior festival positions include directing the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville and Cinema Pacific at the University of Oregon and serving as Artistic Director of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Herskowitz, who earned an MA in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also ran the Cornell Cinema media arts center, where he presented over 500 films annually from 1982 to 1994 and taught film studies at Cornell University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Oregon. He also served as a media arts curator at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca and at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene and has co-curated media art installations at the Schneider Museum of Art since 2016.
According to Herskowitz, “I am proud and, frankly, relieved to say that, even in these hard times, the AIFF organization is strong and growing. I look forward to building our year-round educational and exhibition programs both online and in the new AIFF Film Center, and working alongside Erica Thompson, whose managerial and leadership skills I greatly admire.”
The AIFF organization is also announcing the promotions of two more staff members. Candace Turtle, formerly AIFF’s Development Manager, has been named Associate Director of Development. Molly Kreuzman, who started as Volunteer Coordinator and moved into the role of Communications Manager for the Virtual Festival, is the festival’s Director of Operations.
The organization is currently pursuing candidates to fill the roles of Systems Manager and Communications Manager.