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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.

So Hope tried to adapt to the new market, find new models. He dropped his budgets, to under $7 million, under $5 million, under $3 million. But producing these movies became harder still. Hope learned more than ever about the vagaries of indie distribution today by digging into the nuts and bolts of releasing Solondz's "Dark Horse" this year, and is pushing Sean Baker's microbudget SXSW debut "Starlet" into the market this winter. His "Prince of Broadway," made for $20,000, spurred Hope to start his unseen indie screening series three years ago.

Hope wanted to "stay consistent, to keep asking that question, 'how do we keep reaching?' I always wanted more." He has railed in these pages and others across the web that there has to be a better way to make it possible for excellent movies to get made, to build an independent film structure and culture that works again. He's hoping that San Francisco is the crucible for this change: "The future doesn't come from Hollywood and New York. It's Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. I want to be at the center of that culture, that defines itself by innovation, wants to try new things and not live through risk mitigation, that wants to dream big. Everything that once represented the indie film community is out there now."

So when the SFFS approached him, Hope listened. He believes that the board at SFFS will support his push for change, as it has doled out $1 million a year in artist grants to back such films as "Beasts of the Southern Wild." "I deeply believe that the system can be built," says Hope, "that allows artists and investors to make sustainable movies that connect."

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

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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.