Veteran Film Executive to Take Helm on March 11
SFFILM, the longest-running film festival in the Americas, announced today that Anne Lai has been appointed Executive Director of the organization, effective March 11. Lai, a veteran leader in both the non-profit and studio film worlds who has dedicated her career to providing creative support to filmmakers worldwide, will now step into SFFILM’s key leadership role overseeing expanding programs in film exhibition, media education, and filmmaker services. Lai joins SFFILM after 12 years at Sundance Institute, where she led and developed numerous programs dedicated to supporting creative storytellers and championing emerging talent.
“The board, the staff, and I are very pleased to announce the appointment of Anne Lai to the role of Executive Director of SFFILM,” said Nion McEvoy, President of SFFILM’s Board of Directors. “We are thrilled that the search has yielded such an excellent match for our organization and for the Bay Area arts community. We are excited to have Anne, with her incredible vision, exceptional leadership and management skills, distinct perspective, and deep industry knowledge, at the helm of SFFILM. We look forward to her guidance of our work championing the future of film—cultivating tomorrow’s filmmakers and film lovers through our education programs, directly supporting today’s emerging storytellers through our artist development initiatives, and engaging Bay Area audiences with the best of world cinema through our longstanding Festival and year-round screening events.”
“I’m thrilled and honored to be joining SFFILM, an organization I have long admired for its world class programs and curation,” said Lai. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to build upon a strong legacy and amplify not only the voices of its supported films and artists, but deepen the organization’s commitment to community and beyond through the festival, artist, and education programs. I’m delighted to join the journey and begin working with Nion, the Board, and the entire staff.”
Anne Lai is currently Director of Creative Producing and Artist Support at Sundance Institute, where she will continue until she joins SFFILM in March. In that role, she has focused on discovering and nurturing emerging independent producers, screenwriters, and directors through their first or second feature films. She launched and led the Institute’s first lab dedicated to producers, re-imagined an annual summer convening of filmmakers and industry known as the Creative Producing Summit, and tailored creative and strategic support for filmmakers coming out of the renowned Directors, Screenwriters, and Creative Producing Labs year-round. Additionally, Lai led curation of fiction features for Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Forum, a gathering that connects potential investors to films at a pivotal moment in their financing launch, and oversaw the Institute’s first Asian American Fellowship for screenwriters. Most recently, she helped design and oversaw Talent Forum, a three-day program during the Sundance Film Festival that provides a curated group of Institute-supported projects access to with industry, advocates, and community to move their projects forward.
Filmmakers supported by Lai’s work include Lulu Wang with The Farewell, Boots Riley with Sorry To Bother You, Joe Talbot with Last Black Man in San Francisco, Eliza Hittman with Beach Rats, Geremy Jasper with Patti Cake$, Daniels with Swiss Army Man, Marielle Heller with Diary of a Teenage Girl, writer/director Susanna Fogel and producer Jordana Mollick with Life Partners, Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station, Ritesh Batra with The Lunchbox, and co-writer/director Benh Zeitlin and producers Dan Janvey and Josh Penn with Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Prior to Sundance Institute, Lai served as Vice President of Production at Scott Free, the film and television company founded by film directors Ridley and Tony Scott. She worked on films including Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, RKO 281, and Tristan & Isolde. She was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, attended the University of Michigan and received her degree in film production from the University of Southern California.
“The staff and I are very excited to have Anne join us at SFFILM,” said SFFILM’s Director of Programming Rachel Rosen. “Her depth of experience guiding artist development and artist education programs and her experience working with big budget productions, independents, and non-profits will be essential as we continue to integrate our presentation, artist development, and education programs. The diversity and quality of films that she has nurtured to fruition reveal that she shares SFFILMs values and passion for a wide range of films, filmmakers, and audiences.”
Lai joins the organization in the midst of preparation for the 63rd San Francisco International Film Festival (April 8–21), and during an exciting period of expansion for each of the organization’s key activities. She will take on the completion of SFFILM’s current strategic plan, which includes goals related to developing audiences that reflect the full demographics of the Bay Area and solidifying new artist development initiatives.
SFFILM Festival (April 8-21, 2020) is the longest-running film festival in the Americas and an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and a major cultural event in the Bay Area. The annual lineup features marquee premieres, international competitions, new media work, live performances, and scintillating artist talks. The 2019 Festival featured 209 screenings of 163 films from 52 countries at eight venues in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, with upwards of 125 filmmakers in attendance.