Written by: FFT Webmaster | July 11th, 2011
News has come from the Bay Area that Graham Leggat, the widely admired and respected Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society has stepped down effective immediately due to his on-going health issue challenges. In his six-year tenure, Leggat brought an indomitable energy, considerable savvy and a lilting Scottish accent to his position, with key expansions to the Film Society’s core activity areas, including exhibition, education and filmmaker services. He was a recognizable face on the international film festival circuit, but his work in San Francisco was his pride and joy.
During Leggat’s leadership, the Film Society grew from solely being the producer of the annual 15-day San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest in North America, into a year-round cultural institution that has seen its staff and operating budget increase threefold. Among his accomplishments was the launch of the online film magazine SF360.org, which promoted not only the Film Society’s events but also the entire filmmaking and new media scenes currently thriving in the Bay Area. In 2008, the Film Society incorporated the filmmaker service programs of the ailing non-profit Film Arts Foundation, establishing the Bay Area as one of the key regional production centers in the country. In addition to the Film Festival each April, the Society has offered a full slate of programs and special events. With last week’s announcement of a permanent theater home, the San Francisco Film Society | New People Cinema, film lovers in Northern California will now have a full-time cinema passionately devoted to independent, international and new media works.
In addition to these professional accomplishments, Leggat has been candid about his personal challenges, giving hope to those who face similarly health concerns. In an interview published last week in the local “paper of record” the San Francisco Chronicle, he was characteristically honest and to the point. “”I was diagnosed in Marcy 2010 with cancer and have had various treatments,” he said in a telephone interview with columnist Leah Garchik. “It looked like it was going away. But that’s always a dodgy proposition, and it returned with kind of a vengeance in March of this year.” Leggat has made the decision to put his entire focus on his wellness and to spend more time with his family. His departure leaves a big hole in the heart of the institution he so lovingly and forcefully led these past few years.
“I have relished my leadership role in this dynamic, beloved organization”, Leggat wrote in his letter of resignation to the Society’s board. “Unfortunately, health issues make it impossible for me to continue to serve effectively, and I am stepping down. As I bid the Film Society farewell, I am fully confident that the vision we have forged together of a peerless and vibrant film organization within a vitalizing film culture will continue to thrive and inspire.” Deputy Director Steven Jenkins will assume leadership of the Film Society as acting executive director while the staff and board of directors consider long-term leadership strategies in the coming months. Jenkins is familiar with this role, having stepped up several times in the past 15 months as Leggat has fought his disease.”
Leggat brought a career’s worth of expertise and polish when he accepted the position of Executive Director in 2005. He arrived in San Francisco with 18 years of experience in the non-profit arts world, including executive positions at New York’s key film institutions, including the American Museum of the Moving Image, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. He was a witty and dependable presence at press and industry screenings and events for the New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films, two of Gotham’s most prestigious film showcases. He also honed his writing, editing and publishing skills at Film Comment and FILMMAKER magazines, and as a columnist for the New York Daily News, Aside from his film/media work, he also published his first novel, Song of a Dangerous Paradise, in 2007. In short, a seasoned professional, a superior intellect, a great wit, a dapper don, a Scottish scallywag….he was the kind of Renaissance man that is unique and special in this day and age. “Let’s look ahead together to a bright future”, Leggat concluded in his moving letter to staff. Peace and health be with you, my friend………..