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Graham Leggat Executive Director, San Francisco Film Society Elaborates

Photo of Sydney Levine By Sydney Levine | Sydneys Buzz July 5, 2011 at 5:20AM

Graham Leggat's legacy to the San Francisco Film Society is indelible and will long outlive his illness.
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Graham Leggat's legacy to the San Francisco Film Society is indelible and will long outlive his illness.

Today's SF Chronicle published an elaboration on his illness. In his time on the job, the work of the society, once focused on the festival (the oldest in the Americas), has broadened to include forums and screenings, educational programs for young people in the schools and support for emerging filmmakers. Society membership increased 98 percent; festival ticket sales increased 62 percent. Staff grew from 11 to 35; the operating budget from $2 million to $6 million; and contributions from $1 million to $3 million. The society publishes a regional daily film magazine, sf360.org, and by 2013, will have given more than $3.5 million to independent filmmakers.

The leasing of the New People Cinema, announced last week, is "the final foundational piece that gives us an absolute rock-solid place," said Leggat. Citing two recently received grants and the promise of a third, Leggat said, "We are very well capitalized, we have a theater, we have a great staff."

"Everything now that we build goes upward because the foundation is complete. The next five years should be phenomenal for the society - the staff and board are completely galvanized. At that time you'll see this society achieve amazing prominence as one of the top organizations in the country.

Leggat said that leadership will transfer to the SFFS staff lead by Deputy Director Steven Jenkins and the organization’s Board of Directors.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on his illness. Read more below the jump.


The San Francisco Chronicle reports on his illness.



Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society since 2005, who expanded a two-week festival into a multifaceted series of year-round film programs, will announce today that he is stepping down for health reasons.

"I was diagnosed last March with cancer and have had various treatments," he said in a telephone interview on Friday. "And 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." His cancer has metastasized to several organs and is now classified Stage 4. "It is largely deemed incurable," he said.

Two months ago, at this year's gala for the San Francisco International Film Festival, society board President Pat McBaine lauded Leggat as "the man whose vision, passion, work ethic, tenacity, leadership, occasionally warped Scottish sense of humor, modesty and braveness has indelibly marked this organization."

In his time on the job, the work of the society, once focused on the festival (the oldest in the Americas), has broadened to include forums and screenings, educational programs for young people in the schools and support for emerging filmmakers.

Society takes off

Society membership increased 98 percent; festival ticket sales increased 62 percent. Staff grew from 11 to 35; the operating budget from $2 million to $6 million; and contributions from $1 million to $3 million. The society publishes a regional daily film magazine, sf360.org, and by 2013, will have given more than $3.5 million to independent filmmakers.

The leasing of the New People Cinema, announced last week, is "the final foundational piece that gives us an absolute rock-solid place," said Leggat. Citing two recently received grants and the promise of a third, Leggat said, "We are very well capitalized, we have a theater, we have a great staff."

"Everything now that we build goes upward because the foundation is complete. The next five years should be phenomenal for the society - the staff and board are completely galvanized. At that time you'll see this society achieve amazing prominence as one of the top organizations in the country.

"I could not be more excited about what the future holds for the society," Leggat said on Friday. "I'm a little less excited about what the future holds for me, which seems to be not much."

Shortly after learning of his condition, Leggat, 51, told his staff he would be stepping down from daily duties. The society's deputy director, Steven Jenkins, "has taken over as acting executive director. He's extremely capable, and has been doing that for a while."

'Fresh challenge'

For the society, the change in leadership will be "a fresh challenge," said Leggat, his optimistic assessment probably as much a result of managerial habit as his own disposition. "It is super exciting. I have been ill for over a year. I need to be cut free, and that will bring a certain energy to everybody. Organizations are always changing, and ours is not afraid to change."

During this year's festival, Leggat kept the diagnosis "under my hat, but for a few board members, my bosses, my employers, because I didn't want it to hang over the festival for our guests and for me. I didn't want it to be on people's faces when I walked into a room."

He is not intending to hover over film society matters. "I don't have the wherewithal to do the job as it needs to be done, so it would do the organization a disservice to have me stepping in. The organization is squarely in the lap of the directors and the staff. ... I am not a meddler by nature."

Leggat, born in Scotland, came to the United States in 1979, worked in New York at such nonprofits as the American Museum of the Moving Image, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and at one time was a New York Daily News columnist and publisher of Film Comment magazine; his novel, "Song of a Dangerous Paradise," came out in 2007.

Visiting friends

He plans to remain in the Bay Area, where "I could not be better supported," and will travel with his girlfriend to New York this week "to say hello and goodbye to family and friends." He's looking forward to his son visiting for four weeks this summer. "It's just a question of making yourself comfortable and divesting yourself of small and large things. I have the extraordinary fortune of being able to do that."

E-mail Leah Garchik at lgarchik AT sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/07/05/MNEQ1K5F20.DTL

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This article is related to: International Film Festival

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