I want to share some news with you from the Maryland Film Festival.
Jed Dietz, the Founding Director of the Maryland Film Festival (MdFF) and a prime mover in Baltimore’s cinema renaissance for over two decades, has announced to the MdFF Board of Directors that he will retire this fall. Jed will continue as a consultant to, and ambassador for, the organization both by serving on the board and coordinating MdFF’s Maryland Filmmakers Fellowship with Sundance Labs.
We are delighted to have enlisted Sandra L. Gibson, a nationally recognized leader in arts management and administration and a current consultant with MdFF, to become our Interim Director on November 1. The board will launch a national search for an Executive Director this fall.
Jed has been talking to MdFF leadership for a while about what’s next for the organization and for himself and concluded that this is a good time for this transition. MdFF just completed its 20th film festival, the SNF Parkway just had its first birthday, and a vigorous Strategic Planning process has been completed and endorsed by the MdFF Board. Jed’s wife recently retired, and they would like to travel more, especially to see their children and grandchildren.
It is an understatement to say that our organization and the Parkway Theatre would not exist without Jed’s passionate leadership, and the local film community would not be as strong and vibrant without his vision and enthusiasm. Jed created the Maryland Film Festival in 1999 with the belief that Baltimore could and should be another national center for the production and appreciation of film. Over 20 years, the Festival has emerged as a prominent and respected champion of the breadth of the movie art form and has helped launch the careers of noted filmmakers, including Greta Gerwig, Barry Jenkins, Joe Swanberg and David Lowery. In 2018, the Festival set an attendance record with more than 12,000 attendees.
In April 2017, Jed hosted the dedication of Baltimore’s newly rescued historic 1915 Parkway Theatre, the result of an $18 million fundraising campaign. The restored Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre and two other adjoining theaters screen independent and classic films daily. In just over a year, the Parkway has brought hundreds of new films to Baltimore, hosted filmmakers fr om around the world, welcomed students from the Hopkins and MICA film programs every weekday during the school year, and showcased student films from around the region.
Through the Maryland Filmmakers Fellowship created by Jed in 1997, the MdFF has also directly supported screenplays that are first developed at the famous Sundance Labs, resulting in 18 independent films from first-time directors.
The transition to new MdFF leadership will be smooth. Our incoming Interim Director Sandra Gibson’s vast experience in arts and cultural programming includes her tenure at the American Film Institute (AFI), where she held a number of positions including three years as Director of Independent Filmmaker Program and Distribution Programs and more than five years as Director of West Coast Campus Operations and Personnel. She became intimately familiar with the Maryland Film Festival through her work on our Strategic Plan as part of our collaboration with DeVos Institute of Arts Management.
Over the next many months, we will have ample opportunity to honor and thank Jed for his unparalleled contribution to our city and our film community. In the meantime, I want to express the board’s appreciation for his tireless and selfless efforts over the past 20 years and throughout the initial stages of this transition.
I look forward to celebrating Jed’s accomplishments with you in the coming months, and thank you for your continued support of the Maryland Film Festival.
Chair, MdFF Board of Directors
Baltimore’s Filmmakers and Nonprofit Leaders Share Their Thoughts
John Waters – Filmmaker
“The Parkway is miraculously up and running, and Jed Dietz is leaving after years of obsessive planning and leadership (and boy, will I miss him), but now is the time for our artiest theater to really soar, even explode with new ideas. I’ve been here from the beginning and it’s time for you to join our cinema cult and make this realized dream a movement that all Baltimore can embrace with movie fanatic abandon.”
Ramona Diaz – Filmmaker
“When I moved to Baltimore from Austin in 2003, Jed was the first film person I met. He approached me after my film Imelda premiered at Sundance and said he had heard that I just moved to his city. I was apprehensive about moving because I didn’t think there was a film community that I could be part of in Baltimore. Jed disabused me of that immediately and opened up the world of the Baltimore film scene for me. He eats and breathes cinema and has always been the most ardent booster of emerging filmmakers. So in a way, I’m in denial that he’s retiring. Say it isn’t so, Jed. Say it isn’t so.”
Ron Daniels – President of Johns Hopkins University
“Jed has been an extraordinary champion for Baltimore and its film community – past, present and future. His dedication to the art and business of film and those great artists who use it to tell extraordinary stories is unparalleled. From the germ of an idea, Jed transformed the MdFF into the important and distinctive festival it is today. He saw the impact it could have on Baltimore and inspired others to share his remarkable vision for a festival and now for a year-round theater that enhances cultural and economic opportunity for our artists and our entire community.”
Sammy Hoi – President of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
“Jed is a cultural hero in Baltimore. In founding and steering the Maryland Film Festival, he has shaped an annual forum that serves and builds a film-loving community in our city and the region. Over the years, so many Baltimore and Baltimore-relevant filmmakers and their stories have emerged from and been lifted by the Film Festival. With his vision and dedicated work to renovate and re-open the historical Parkway Theatre, Jed has now enabled year-round programming of quality independent films in Baltimore with a richness that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Bravo and thank you, Jed!”