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Tabitha Jackson Comes to Sundance

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood November 15, 2013 at 4:45PM

The most famous festival devoted to American cinema will now have a Brit from television behind its documentary films. Tabitha Jackson, who was a commissioning editor at Channel 4 Television in London, has been named to replace the departed Cara Mertes as Director, Documentary Film Program. Thank goodness the doc world is such a font of fraternity and brotherhood. Shouldn’t be any sniping about this at all.
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Tabitha Jackson
Tabitha Jackson

The most famous festival devoted to American cinema will now have a Brit from television behind its documentary films. Tabitha Jackson, who was a commissioning editor at Channel 4 Television in London, has been named to replace the departed Cara Mertes as Director, Documentary Film Program. Thank goodness the doc world is such a font of unity and supportiveness. Shouldn’t be any sniping about this at all.

Jackson has credentials: Before her Channel 4 gig, she was Editor, More 4 at Channel 4, where she ran day-to-day operations for what is the UK’s sixth largest digital channel and ran the two key areas of original programming  -- True Stories and More 4 Arts. She has been associate with such nonfiction standouts as “The Imposter,” “The Cove,” “Burma VJ” and “Which Way Home.”

In a prepared statement released Friday, Sundance Executive Director Keri Putnam said:

“Tabitha’s professional experience, demonstrated leadership, and passion for the field make her an ideal candidate to lead our documentary program at this time. We were impressed with her infectious enthusiasm and fresh approach to storytelling, creating engaging content, and discovering new voices. I am confident that Tabitha will be a great leader in service of our core mission and will advance and deepen our impact and reach on a global level.”

After relocating from London to Los Angeles, Jackson will start supervising a staff of eight on December 6. What immediately makes her a power player is the fact that she’ll oversee the Sundance Documentary Fund, which was originally set up by Mertes’ predecessor, Diane Weyermann, with money from the Open Society Institute, and will put at Jackson’s disposal $1.8 million in grant money for independent documentaries globally. This in addition to hosting five annual labs for documentary filmmakers, and various other activities in support of filmmakers. If you want to meet Tabitha Jackson, look for the crowd of hungry doc makers at the next festival you attend. They’ll be trying to meet her too.

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This article is related to: Documentary, Documentaries


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.