Indie film exec moving to Salter Street

NEW YORK — After seven years at the helm of the Independent Feature Project, Catherine Tait is stepping down to become president and chief operating officer of Canada’s Salter Street Films, a Halifax-based film and television producer best known for Canada’s top-rated comedy series “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”

Taking over from Tait as IFP executive director is Michelle Byrd, who joined the organization in 1991 as program director and has served as deputy director since 1994. Founded in 1979 as a sidebar of the New York Film Festival, the IFP is the nation’s largest association of independent filmmakers.

Tait will continue her involvement in the IFP as a board member. “I have given six years to the IFP and it’s time to let Michelle take over,” Tait said.

As deputy director of the IFP, Byrd has been responsible for overseeing year-round programming, managing daily operations as well as developing and implementing new programs and services. Before joining the organization, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic Inc.

Membership swell

During Tait’s tenure, the organization’s membership increased to 3,500 from 600. Its budget grew to $2 mil-lion from $500,000 as the amount of corporate funding expanded to $1.3 million from $150,000.

Helping attract the support of sponsors such as Bravo Cable Network, the Creative Artists Agency, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Miramax Films and Absolut have been the annual Gotham Awards, which were founded before Tait’s ar-rival.Under Tait’s leadership, the number of submissions to the annual Independent Feature Film Market rose from 390 in 1990 to 600 last year, while the market helped launch such indie hits as Burns’ “The Brothers McMullen,” Linklater’s “Slacker,” Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan,” Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me,” Smith’s “Clerks” and Todd Solondz’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse.”

Turnover turnaround

When Tait joined the IFP, after serving as Canada’s cultural attache in Paris, the organization’s membership had a 75% turnover rate. “People used to join just to come to the IFFM,” she said. “That was the only benefit.” By increasing the number of services for IFP members, Tait has helped cut the turnover to 40%, a level that she be-lieves can be reduced further.

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