Leggat, who died on Aug 25 following an 18-month battle with cancer, was a widely admired and beloved figure who transformed the Society.
The Scot was appointed executive director on Oct 15 2005 and in the five years that he was active in the role the Society grew from being a two-week-a-year festival into a year-round cultural institution. In the last five years the festival has honoured such international luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Walter Salles, Oliver Stone and Tilda Swinton.
Leggat introduced a year-round education department and a vibrant filmmaker services division and through his leadership the Society will open the state-of-the-art 143-seater New People Cinema in a matter of days on Sept 1.
Under Leggat’s tenure, Society staff grew from 11 to 35, the board of directors expanded from 12 to 22, the operating budget increased threefold to $6m and was balanced each year. Membership rose 98% in the period, while ticket sales climbed 62% and receipts for Film Society Awards Night climbed 42%.
Earlier this year he received the Chevalier De l’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres.
Leggat was born to Scottish parents on Mar 12, 1960, in Epsom, Surrey, and grew up in England and Scotland before the family moved to Toronto. He studied at Stanford before working as a freelance journalist and moving into college film exhibition.
From there he went to the New York Film Festival and took up executive positions at the American Museum Of The Moving Image, the Museum Of Modern Art and the Film Society Of Lincoln Cente. He co-founded the Gen Art Film Festival and became associate publisher of Film Comment, contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine and columnist for the New York Daily News. His first novel, Song Of A Dangerous Paradise, was published in January 2007.
Leggat is survived by his parents Graham and Marilyn of Niagara Falls, Canada, son William and daughters Vhary and Isabelle, sister Alexandra Leggat of Toronto, devoted partner Diana Chiawen Lee, former wife Ellen Hughes, mother of his daughters and former wife Lillian Heard, mother of his son.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Leggat’s memory may be made to the San Francisco Film Society. Condolences should be sent to email@example.com or c/o Jessica Anthony, SFFS, 39 Mesa Street, Suite 110, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129. A memorial service, open to the public, is planned for late September.
“His vision, leadership, passion, work ethic, tenacity, imagination and daring along with his colourful language and wicked Scottish sense of humor have indelibly marked our organisation with a valuable legacy and left it in the best shape – artistically, organisationally and financially – in its 54-year history,” Pat McBaine, president of the Film Society’s board of directors, said.
“Graham’s boundless energy and intellect made him just the person to inspire and excite the staff and board to reach new heights and develop our assets,” Melanie Blum, former president of the Film Society board of directors, said. “He was a true visionary and a wonderful friend.”