The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival announced a reshuffling in the organization’s executive leadership as the popular film festival begins plans for the 28th edition, which will take place March 8-13. SLO Film Fest also announced its Call for Entries for next year. Filmmakers can submit their films to: https://filmfreeway.com/slofilmfest.
Wendy Eidson left her position as Festival Director a year ago to become Artistic Director, and has been a primary architect of the successful film festival located on the Central California Coast. After 17 years, she has stepped down to focus her energies on her personal life and new ventures in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she now lives.
Grace Tucker has been hired as Associate Director to work with Executive Director Skye McLennan as the nonprofit organization builds on the success of this year’s hybrid edition of the film festival. McLennan, a Templeton local who worked at the Sydney Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Festival before joining the SLO Film Festival in 2019, took over leading the festival in June 2020. Tucker, a Cal Poly graduate, has been with the organization for four years as an assistant, handling myriad roles and showing tremendous leadership and care for filmmakers, McLennan said.
In announcing her departure, Eidson said that the last 17 years as Festival Director and Artistic Director have been a “fabulous adventure” and immensely rewarding as she helped to build the festival’s reputation. But Eidson, a Canadian with U.S. citizenship, said she’s fulfilling a long-term goal to return to her roots.
“It’s been a great ride and I look forward to attending the Festival in the future as a festival goer and to watch it continue to flourish in the capable hands of Skye and company,” Eidson wrote in announcing her departure.
Paul Metchik, president of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Board of Directors, credited Eidson with many individual achievements, such as holding the first Surf Nite at the Fremont Theater featuring Riding Giants, initiating the Filmmakers of Tomorrow youth competition, staging “Hollywood and Vine’’ events that paid homage to the Festival’s beginnings as a classic film festival, and screening Citizen Kane in 2015 at the Hearst Castle private screening room, garnering worldwide attention.
But Eidson’s lasting legacy, Metchik said, “is nurturing the transition of a small-town classic film festival into a truly international independent film festival that screens 80+ films from all over the world, chosen from over 1,000 submissions, to an audience of more than 12,000. It’s lauded by the filmmakers who attend and has been honored six times with MovieMaker Magazine’s coveted annual designation as one of the “50 Festivals Most Worth the Entry Fee.”
With a long held reputation as a beloved destination film festival, SLO Film Fest earned further kudos as one of the very first film festivals to go online following the effects of the pandemic across the country. MovieMaker Magazine cited the fest, known for its beautiful location, parties mixing filmmakers with film fans, and unique melding of surf culture and wine country, for leading the way for other film festivals to pivot to the virtual space.
Looking ahead, McLennan said that “we will deeply miss Wendy, but we are excited for her next adventures. We will honor her mission and goal of continuing to develop the SLO Film Festival’s world-class reputation with award-winning programming, star-studded events and superior hospitality.”
Following a year which added a drive-in presentation and the first in-person film event in more than a year’s time to the virtual screenings, SLO Film Festival expects to return next year to the flourish of in-person screenings, as well as food and wine events the area’s film fans have missed, while continuing to offer the virtual screenings which proved immensely popular during the last two years and extended its reach throughout the entire state of California. “We are incredibly excited to see our friends and community again in person,” McLennan said.