Lyanga promoted to fest director; Kneedler also upped

Park City, Utah — In the wake of the departure of senior AFI Fest staffers in December, the American Film Institute has promoted programmer Jacqueline Lyanga to festival director.

Another AFI vet, Lane Kneedler, has been upped to associate director of programming. Derek Call, who managed fest operations and the AFI Campus from 2002 to 2008, returns to AFI as festival producer.

Exiting fest topper Rose Kuo, who was a full-time staffer, had been contemplating her departure since before the 2009 fest, which was her third at AFI. She had cited budgetary constraints as a reason for not wanting to return for a fourth year. Among the other exits was 2009 fest producer David Rogers, a consultant who had worked at AFI Fest and AFI Dallas in producing capacities since 2006.

Kuo, Rogers, 2009 AFI Fest programmer Robert Koehler (also a Variety reviewer) and former AFI publicist John Wildman, meanwhile, have just launched Festworks, a consultancy service for film festivals.

AFI Fest’s new topper Lyanga, a graduate of the AFI Conservatory, has been with the AFI in various programming capacities since 2005.

Said AFI COO Nancy Harris, “She’s dealt with the studios and with talent both as a key right hand to Rose and in year-round programs like AFI Night at the Movies and other events. She’s been an integral part in all of those liaisions.”

The upcoming 24th annual AFI Fest, unspooling in November, will bring back presenting sponsor Audi as well as last year’s “See A Film On Us!” program that offers free tickets to daytime screenings and selected evening screenings. The free fest was Kuo’s innovation and resulted in record attendance in 2009.

“What began as a recession-inspired experiment has proven a new model for film festivals where the price of admission is not a barrier to experiencing the best of world cinema,” said Harris.

Addressing the budgetary issues, she said, “The festival budget from 2008 versus 2009 was indeed trimmed, which one does when you have a free festival. But we have the same budget we had for 2009 in 2010. Our team believes that with advanced planning and how we can stretch a dollar, you can still have a remarkably great festival.”

Kuo also recently took on the role co-exec director at the Sante Fe Film Festival with Michael Hare.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more