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San Francisco Film Society kicks off director search

Fest starts April 19

Though Bingham Ray ran the San Francisco Film Society for less than three months, the impact he made before his death was enough to raise the bar on the search for his replacement.

“Bingham’s will be tough shoes to fill,” said Melanie Blum, longtime board member who’s aiding the search while serving as interim executive director.

After the October death of longtime Film Society director Graham Leggat, Ray was named exec director, put his New York home on the market and planned a move to the Bay Area. Ten weeks later, he suffered two strokes while attending Sundance and died Jan. 23.

The Film Society will begin to actively seek a new exec director, with the challenge of finding someone who can sustain the higher profile that Ray’s involvement afforded, as well as see through the structural changes he put into motion.

“He gave us more visibility and made people look at our fest in a different way,” said Jen Chaiken, film producer and SFFS board co-vice president.

Within his first weeks, Ray began tweaking the organization of the 38-employee, year-round nonprofit. Aside from putting on the longest continuously running film festival in the Americas, the 55-year-old SFFS provides educational programs and support services for Bay Area filmmakers.

As for the San Francisco Intl. Film Fest, which starts April 19, organizers say they’ll be ready.

“The staff knows what they need to do,” Blum said. “You can’t be a business just relying on one person.”