Richard Herskowitz, who served as Artistic and Executive Director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival after the two jobs were consolidated in early 2017, is handing over the Executive Director position to Erica Thompson, who had been serving as the organization’s Managing Director. Herskowitz will continue as Artistic Director, guiding the festival’s artistic and educational programs.
The transition caps an exciting year of growth for the organization, which under Herskowitz’s direction launched the AIFF Film Center on Ashland’s Main Street and made a successful pivot from the popular April festival to a virtual festival that was recognized nationally for its programming excellence and inclusiveness. The online festival drew viewers from 42 states and broke attendance records.
“I am proud and, frankly, relieved to say that, even in these hard times, the AIFF organization is strong and growing. I look forward to building our year-round educational and exhibition programs both online and in the new AIFF Film Center, and working alongside Erica, whose managerial and leadership skills I greatly admire,” Herskowitz said.
Marty Rosen, a retired newspaper reporter who, in her second career developed strategic plans and fundraising campaigns for theater companies in her native New York and for independent filmmakers and animators, is the newly elected chair of AIFF’s Board of Directors. She follows Ashland entrepreneur Stephen Sloan, who will continue to serve on the board.
“We have an extraordinary opportunity to further develop our online presence through Richard’s dynamic curatorial work, his film education programs, and his ability to engage independent filmmakers in dialogues on pressing issues,” Rosen said. “We are excited to have a rising managerial star in Erica Thompson, who we are confident will continue to embrace the challenges of these difficult times.”
Thompson received her BFA in Film in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and worked for three years at Milwaukee Film in various roles, including Filmmaker Services and Education Coordinator. Her initial role at AIFF was managing filmmaker hospitality in 2017, after which she intended to return to Milwaukee. However, Herskowitz invited her to return as Assistant to the Director in late 2017, then Director of Operations in 2018, and Managing Director in 2019.
“I’m inspired by the legacy of this festival and how beloved it is by a passionate and dedicated community of thoughtful viewers,” Thompson said. “I look forward to continuing to find creative ways to best serve our local community and am grateful for the opportunity to maintain and grow a platform for underrepresented voices and independent artists.”
Herskowitz came to Ashland in late 2015 as Director of Programming, before moving into the Artistic and Executive Director role in 2017. His prior festival positions include directing the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville and Cinema Pacific at the University of Oregon and serving as Artistic Director of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Herskowitz, who earned an MA in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also ran the Cornell Cinema media arts center, where he presented over 500 films annually from 1982 to 1994 and taught film studies at Cornell University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Oregon. He also served as a media arts curator at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca and at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene and has co-curated media art installations at the Schneider Museum of Art since 2016.
The AIFF organization is also announcing the promotions of two more staff members. Candace Turtle, formerly AIFF’s Development Manager, has been named Associate Director of Development. Molly Kreuzman, who started as Volunteer Coordinator and moved into the role of Communications Manager for the Virtual Festival, is the festival’s Director of Operations.
The organization is currently pursuing candidates to fill the roles of Systems Manager and Communications Manager.