Women to Watch: Helga Stephenson

by Sydney Levine
June 1, 2011 2:30 AM
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Helga Stephenson
When I first began attending the Toronto Festival of Festivals as it was called in 1985, Helga was its executive director and she introduced me to her second in command, Piers Handling who has taken good care of us ever since. We still meet in Toronto and in December at the Havana Film Festival in Cuba. A few days after that infamous day September 11, she invited the stranded Americans to her home for comfort. For a while she disappeared into the corporate Viacom in Toronto, or would reappear wearing various different hats. Now she has been appointed interim CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, replacing Sara Morton.

Speaking after a Telefilm Canada press conference celebrating Canadian cinema, Stephenson told Screen:

“My first priority is to throw open the doors and invite the industry back in, so they can have their say about the Academy"
. Academy board vice-chair Charles Ohayon, who also attended the press conference, said a new 12-member Academy board that will be appointed by the end of June will decide if Stephenson’s appointment is permanent. “The Academy is very conscious of the fact that we needed to do our homework, and that’s what we’re doing,” Ohayon said, adding that the appointment will be part of a broader restructuring. “We’ve downsized [to 10 employees] and we’re going to have a new board which is very close to our community.”

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