The Indie Memphis Film Festival has announced the resignation of Executive Director Erik Jambor.
In his seven-year stint as the festival’s first full time executive director, Jambor has overseen the expansion of the festival from its roots as a locally focused, all-volunteer affair into an internationally renown event, screening more than 100 films annually, with year-round programming. The festival became one of the first major events to be held in Overton Square, selling out screenings in Playhouse On The Square and Circuit Playhouse and raising the profile of the entertainment district at a crucial time during its redevelopment. Attendance peaked in 2012, with approximately 12,000 festival goers.
However, as the festival continued to expand and add screens, attendance has leveled off and dropped over the last two years. In private conversations, Indie Memphis board members have pointed to several factors, including failed outreach beyond the core cinephile audience and the fact that the festival weekend has fallen on the distraction-filled Halloween holiday in the last two years.
A significant shortfall in the festival’s $200,000 annual budget became apparent at the end of 2014, kicking off an internal debate among the board members about the future of the festival. Indie Memphis’ other full time employee, Brighid Wheeler was laid off in January, and Jambor stopped taking his salary in February before finally resigning this week.
In a press release late Friday newly elected board president Ryan Watt, a Memphis-based film producer, said that a search for a new director has begun, and that the search will concentrate on finding someone with non-profit fundraising experience. A scaled-back version of the festival will take place in the fall—although definitely not on Halloween weekend. Watt said this year’s festival will be more locally focused, and that he hopes to reschedule the festival to a more opportune time of year in 2016 and revamping the festival to reflect the changing nature of film audiences. No call for entries has been posted at this time.
Both members of the board and Jambor have characterized his departure as a mutual decision. Jambor has accepted a film fellowship in Italy, and has stated he hopes to return as a consultant to the festival in the future.