Wake-Up Call: Cut! The Denver Film Society makes it official

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If this were a movie, one insider theorizes, it would be like Crash, with everyone going through the same situation -- but seeing it entirely differently.

Last Monday, as Westword was going to press (we have new deadlines for our new format -- although the paper still hits the street Wednesday afternoon), I checked in with few of the people I'd been talking to regarding the upheaval at the Denver Film Society. By June 1, close to twenty employees of the DFS had submitted their resignations, unwilling to continue working with new executive director Bo Smith -- or for a board that had just given Smith a vote of confidence.

Wait, they told me. There's an emergency board meeting tomorrow, on June 2. We think the board is going to reverse its decision. So I waited. And the board did indeed meet -- and affirmed its previous decision.

That's when indieWIRE, an independent newswire for the film industry and film fans, broke the news about the "Mile High Mutiny" at the Denver Film Festival. And once the situation -- and scrutiny -- went international, the board of the Denver Film Society, which runs the 32-year-old Denver International Film Festival, scheduled yet another emergency meeting for last Friday, June 5.

And this time, the board finally recognized that Bo Smith must go.

As this week's edition of Westword was going to press last night -- this time with a column about the DFS -- I received an official statement: "Denver Film Society Appoints Erickson as Interim ED; Programming and Festivals Move Forward as Planned:"

DENVER -- June 8, 2009 -- Following the dismissal of Burleigh "Bo" Smith as its executive director this past weekend, the Board of Directors of the Denver Film Society (DFS) announced today that Britta Erickson has been appointed interim executive director of the organization, overseeing the daily operations of the Denver Film Society and Starz FilmCenter, effective immediately. A search for a permanent executive director is also underway by the board of directors.

"We have tremendous confidence in the professional staff of our organization and the programming and events model that we have in place," said DFS Board Chairman, David Charmatz. "We will be working to find a new executive director that will, in conjunction with our staff, our supporters and the entire community, keep the Film Society growing and moving forward."

As has been reported in mainstream and trade media outlets, a combination of budget issues and conflict between the Denver Film Society staff and Smith led to proposed layoffs and staff resignations and ultimately, a board of director's decision to relieve Smith of his duties.

"While it has been a dramatic and emotional few months for the Denver Film Society, the board of directors is working toward finding a permanent executive director that will provide stable leadership of our organization," said Erickson. "What's most important at this point is for our patrons and the community to know that the programs and festivals that have served as hallmarks of our organization for more than three decades will continue uninterrupted in the coming weeks and months."

Denver Film Festival founder, Ron Henderson will continue to serve as a consultant to DFS. While details regarding the return of individual staff members are still being worked through, the Film Society and the Starz FilmCenter are operating at full strength with all programming and events taking place as scheduled.

Take three.

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