San Francisco Raises Its Awards Season Profile

Bay Area puts heart into Oscar hopefuls

The inaugural San Francisco Film Society Fall Celebration on Nov. 14 has an announced intention of “honoring creativity, innovation, collaboration and inspiration in cinema,” which meshes nicely with the Bay Area film community’s “not L.A.” vibe.

The program of “Fruitvale Station,” “Her,” “Nebraska” (pictured) and “The Square” with filmmakers including Ryan Coogler, Spike Jonze, Michael B. Jordan, Jehane Noujaim, Alexander Payne and June Squibb in attendance was curated by the SFFS team to represent a “summation of what the year held, what were the best films of the year,” according to the org’s executive director Ted Hope.

While the primary mission of the SFFS remains its springtime San Francisco film fest, a Bay Area fixture for more than 50 years, Hope’s brief one-year tenure (he recently announced a return to indie film production) as topper has yielded this new event that Hope says is designed to place San Francisco firmly in the middle of the awards season conversation.

“This is the third-largest Academy membership, after L.A. and New York City,” he says. “The board discussed the society’s need to honor more than our own Bay Area legacy of film history and own current creative renaissance, and we said, ‘Why not play a bigger role in helping determine the films that the Academy celebrates?’ ”

The event, co-chaired by filmmakers and SFFS board members Victoria Raiser and Todd Traina and hosted by fellow board members Sid Ganis and Chris Columbus, takes place at private club the Battery. Variety is a media sponsor.

Hope recalls that the selection process was easy, and quickly morphed from “picking a handful a films that embody the Bay Area values and finding the type of films that might not necessarily get all the attention they deserve” into seeing their selections rise to the top of awards-season discussions in a matter of weeks.

So much so that Hope now views the lineup as a showcase for “films that are being recognized and celebrated. This becomes a great way for the Bay Area to show their support” and also “to make use of the AMPAS membership. Because we also have a strong vfx community and a strong doc community.” Hope sees a time down the road when “those areas can be singled out even more.”

Hope sounds like he’s still connected to the mission of the org he briefly led after the death of fellow indie maverick Bingham Ray in 2012 and emphasizes his connection to his adopted hometown, which he calls a “vibrant filmmaking community.”

There’s no announcement yet of a replacement for Hope, a celebrated indie producer who was for decades a mainstay of the New York film scene, although Hope points out that “if you want to kickstart the interviewing process with calls from lots of strong candidates, all you have to do is announce your resignation in Variety.”

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