An announcement regarding the appointment of a new artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival is “coming very soon”, according to Gavin Miller, CEO of the festival’s new parent body Centre For The Moving Image (CMI), who is overseeing the recruitment process.
Miller said he was in “final negotiations” over the appointment of a new hire to replace Hannah McGill, who left in August after four years in the post. He said an announcement would be made “hopefully before Christmas”.
With only six months to go before the 65th edition of the EIFF, industry speculation has been growing as to why an appointment has not been made despite the fact that interviews took place in October and key festivals like Sundance and Berlin, where an artistic director would be expected to begin their selection process, are fast approaching.
And while Zak Brilliant of Icon Film Distribution confirmed that a call for submissions had gone out for films, he added that “it’s fair to say there is anticipation over who will be taking Hannah’s post, and whether there are any changes planned.”
Screen has learnt that amongst the applicants for the position, which was advertised in October, were prominent London-based journalists, Bradford International Film Festival artistic director Tony Earnshaw and Cambridge Film Festival director Tony Jones.
Jones, who was interviewed but rejected for the post, told Screen that it was important that the right person was chosen to head up the EIFF, a festival he has been attending for 30 years. “It’s the most important festival job, because of its history and what it stands for. Edinburgh has done some fantastic things and discovered some great young film-makers.”
He added: “If you look at the way previous artistic directors have come onboard, they’ve normally been recommendations from the outgoing director. But Hannah wasn’t on the interview panel.”
Tony Earnshaw, who was also interviewed, added: “By the time the interview process got under way, it was already very late in the day, for any potential new director to pick up and run with the project.”
Miller, a former commercial director of BBC Worldwide, told Screen that the delay in appointing someone for the post was “all part of going through the proper process,” although it has emerged that the advertisement for the post gave only one week for candidates to apply.
With UKFC support ending for EIFF in 2010, speculation had also been growing as to where the 2011 festival’s funding will be coming from.
“We’ve got funding, we’ve got a budget. We get investment from Edinburgh City Council and from Creative Scotland. And on the commercial side in terms of ticket sales, brand partnerships,” said Miller.
The festival’s contract with PR company Rogers & Cowan is now up after five years, and the PR job is expected to be put out to pitch, although as yet, that hasn’t happened.
With Sheffield Doc/Fest moving into a new June slot, it is not clear what impact it will have on the EIFF, which is currently scheduled to take place from June 15-26, although an industry source told Screen that they were aware that the EIFF’s June slot could be up for discussion from 2012. (The festival was traditionally held concurrent to the Fringe Festival in August before moving to June with the 2008 edition.)
Overall, it has been a year of change for the EIFF, with its managing director Ginnie Atkinson stepping down in January, McGill leaving her post in August and producer Iain Smith stepping down as chair of the festival’s board in October.
Lesley Hills then took up the position of chair of the board of the CMI, with Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousins also appointed as “creative advisors” in October. Both have already been involved with the EIFF, Swinton as a patron since 2007 and Cousins as artistic director from 1995-1996.
The CMI now incorporates both the EIFF and the Edinburgh Filmhouse. All the remaining EIFF staff now work for the CMI, not the festival, which, said an industry source, has led to some confusion over the role of the festival within this umbrella organisation.
A source told Screen: “There is no artistic director and lots of people have left in quick succession and that is no coincidence.”
Miller said: “In their idle speculation, what people forget is that there is a team here.Yes, there has been change but there has been necessary change.”