After 26 years as Director of the Vancouver International Film Festival, Alan Franey has announced he is stepping down from the role.
“It has been a privilege for me to lead this organization for so long,” Franey wrote in an end-of-festival message sent out by e-mail on Saturday.
Franey said he hopes to remain “very much involved” with the festival, but wants to focus on programming.
He said VIFF’s senior staff and board have been working toward this executive transition “for a few years,” and suggested the transition will benefit from the fact that the festival has a number of “knowledgeable and dedicated long-term employees.”
Franey has been with the festival for all 32 years, joining the festival straight from his job managing the Ridge Theatre.
Franey, who was born in London, England, and grew up in Vancouver, says film became a passion in Grade 12, when he started seeing international films and political documentaries, and founded a film society at his high school, Burnaby Central.
In his role as festival director, he screens hundreds of films a year, sometimes five or six in a single day.
He says he now hopes to live a more balanced life, and to have more time for other pursuits.
This year’s VIFF wrapped up Friday night, with attendance exceeding expectations, according to Franey – a relief after the difficulties the festival has faced over the last year.
“At this time last year we were under a rather dark cloud not of our own making. We cringed as headlines pronounced the festival threatened by the closure of the last movie theatre on theatre row,” he wrote in his e-mail message, referring to the news that the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas, the festival’s hub, was closing. Summer-like conditions last fall also had a negative impact on the festival’s box office. “We knew our future should be bright, but risk and uncertainty were impossible to ignore.
“It wasn’t easy to create a new constellation of festival venues because an unprecedented range of investments were needed to convert available auditoriums into state-of-the-art movie theatres during VIFF,” he continued.
In the end, he says the festival in its new configuration was a “tremendous success” and thanked audiences for “their patience and good spirits while we ironed out some of the inevitable wrinkles that come with managing new venues.”