Ron Henderson, one of the founders and the artistic director of the Denver Film Society (DFS) and the Starz Denver Film Festival, is to step down as artistic director and will relinquish his day-to-day leadership responsibilities at the end of the year.

After 30 years of service, Henderson will maintain ties with DFS as a senior programme consultant.

Director of media and industry relations Britta Erickson has been appointed director of festivals by executive director Scott Rowitz and the Society's board of directors.

Brit Withey, who has served as programme director for the DFS, has been appointed artistic director of festivals providing creative leadership for the Starz Denver Film Festival and other projects of the DFS.

Scott Rowitz, executive director of the Denver Film Society since 2001, completes the leadership team, continuing in his management and oversight of the organisation's business functions.

Henderson will receive the be honored with the John Cassavetes Award at a special presentation on the opening night of the Starz Denver Film Festival on Nov 8.

Established in 1989 in collaboration with Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands, the award is presented annually to an individual who has 'made a significant contribution to the world of film-making and whose work reflects the spirit of the late John Cassavetes.'

'Ron's impact on the cultural health of Denver has been extraordinary,' chair of the DFS' board of directors Nina Henderson Moore said. 'He was there when film festivals were not at all commonplace. And it is his dedication and commitment that has propelled the Starz Denver Film Festival solidly onto the international stage.'