Former Sydney Film Festival director Clare Stewart is set to head the London Film Festival after artistic director Sandra Hebron announced her decision to step down last week.
Stewart will assume the newly created role of head of exhibition at the British Film Institute, where she will be responsible for all the BFI’s film exhibition activity, BFI fests, the cultural and commercial performance of BFI Southbank, and BFI Imax.
Reporting directly to BFI creative director Heather Stewart, Clare Stewart will start in late August; outgoing artistic director Hebron will continue to run the 55th edition of the London Film Festival — her last — until it closes at the end of October.
Clare Stewart joins the BFI after serving for five years as fest director of the Sydney Film Festival. During her tenure there, she increased the fest’s audience, built box office to an all-time high and attracted new funding and sponsorship deals.
She also introduced the official competition award at Sydney, offering the richest cash prize — A$60,000 ($65,000) — for film in Oz and the Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize. In 2009, the fest program was rescaled by 33% in scope and duration from 19 days to 12 days, and from 180 features to 120 features.
Prior to her role at SFF, she worked as inaugural head of film programs at the Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne as well as various roles at the Australian Film Institute.
“I am thrilled to be joining the BFI at this significant moment in the organization’s history and to be working with creative director Heather Stewart to forge the future strategy for the flagship BFI Southbank venues and leading film festivals,” said Stewart in a statement. “This new position provides the opportunity to align the expertise of BFI’s team of programmers and producers with the objective of further enhancing the cultural and business impact of the BFI’s diverse screening programs.”
Hebron had been with the BFI fests department for 14 years and served as LFF’s artistic director since 2003, and had also been responsible for the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. The BFI merged the roles of artistic director of LFF and artistic director of BFI Southbank, but Hebron opted not to apply for the combined role.
This year’s London Film Festival runs Oct. 12-27.