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Ted Hope Explains His Surprise Move to San Francisco

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 9, 2012 at 1:07PM

So why did indie producer Ted Hope take this dramatic turn in his career, moving from New York to San Francisco to take the executive director reins at the San Francisco Film Society? Well, first, Hope denies that he's ditching indie film production. He's simply reversing the order of the two things that matter most to him: making indie films and fighting for their future.
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Ted Hope
Ted Hope

So why did indie producer Ted Hope take this dramatic turn in his career, moving from New York to San Francisco to take the executive director reins at the San Francisco Film Society? Well, first, Hope denies that he's ditching indie film production. He's simply reversing the order of the two things that matter most to him: making indie films and fighting for their future.

"First and foremost, I see this as an extension of what I've been doing: producing," Hope says. "My trajectory has been over the last five years to attempt to build a better mousetrap for indie film. Curating at the Film Society at Lincoln Center is producing. Building apps is producing. Blogging and all that is producing. This opportunity allows me to flip building an indie infrastructure as my priority and producing as a hobby. By no means will I give up the projects I've nurtured. I'm in the process of finding partners on all my projects. I won't be able to do the hands-on day-to-day work. You'll continue to see my blogging and social media presence."

Hope sees his new role at SFSS as a missionary calling. "When asked," he says, "How could I not serve?" A few years ago, Hope says, before Graham Leggat, the SFSS was just its annual film festival. But Leggat built it into something more that Hope wants to build on, reaching out to the Bay Area film community and Silicon Valley. Also, Massachusetts-born Hope says that New York isn't the same place he moved to in 1982 from Portland, Oregon, where he had done research for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.

And Hope admits that while his earnings from producing films has declined steadily over the past five years, his salary at the SFFS "is consistent with that income drop." That said, Hope was never in it for the money and was happy to profit handsomely from his avocation during the good years.

Hope has championed the work of such directors as Todd Solondz, Michel Gondry, Nicole Holocener and Ang Lee, among others. His goal was always ambitious: "To make a movie that couldn't be ignored, that would have cultural influence." What happened since the economic crash of 2008? "Very few people had the privilege to do that," he says. Those movies became impossibly difficult to make. "No systems supported it," he says. There were no more overhead deals to allow him to dream large, to cushion the flops. "There's an abundance of good movies," he says. "But the great movies don't get made."

This article is related to: Independents, San Francisco International Film Festival


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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.