Mara Manus in Variety

by mikejones
March 20, 2009 7:40 AM
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As Lincoln Center Film Society's new head, Mara Manus, approaches her one-year-mark in office, there's no doubt she's left a noticeable wake already. Major staff cuts resulting the resignations of respected programmer Kent Jones and publicity vet Jeanne Berney hasn't enamored Manus to the deep-rooted (and vocal) LCFS community.

With Gilmore stepping into Tribeca among talk of a fall move, a battle seems to be looming between LCFS's stalwart New York Film Festival and its well-funded neighbor, Tribeca.

And this morning, Variety's Dade Hayes delivers more news that's sure to get the noses crinkling more:

Her critics would not necessarily be heartened to know that Manus and other Film Society execs just wrapped a trip to L.A., where they met with agencies and studios -- something the org has never done before in its history. "It's important that we have that dialogue," she said. "The studios aren't just making 'Bachelor Party.' "

The reference to Fox's 1984 Tom Hanks comedy isn't random. Before her long run at the Public and before that at the Ford Foundation, Manus worked as a production exec at Universal, reporting to comedy maven Sean Daniel, a Universal exec who oversaw "Animal House."

One day Daniel told her she had to see Hanks, then an emerging star, in the Joe Roth-helmed "Bachelor Party." "I laughed so hard at that screening," she recalled.

Fest times are changing. We have moved from the importance of the festival message to the role of a fest personality. It's not enough for a fest to advertise its love for foreign or indie film. That message is part of every festival marketing kit. Now, festivals and their organizations seem to be cultivating personalities -- marquee names that will get them what they want. And what they want these days is pretty plain -- financial stability.

Among the few names I know of that were up for job Manus got, it's clear the org hired her to shake things up; to move them into another direction -- profitability. She's not a cineaste. She's a bottom-line person. Yet every time Manus shakes, the cineastes get pissed. And for a city that's so identified for its cranky, film-loving residents -- who covet their black-tie fest (as they should) -- Manus and the org should realize it's part of the job.

It's also part of the job to listen to them.


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