Art News

Kevin Smith Named Interim CEO of Denver Film

Denver Film
Kevin Smith takes over as Denver Film Interim CEO
Kevin Smith — no, not that Kevin Smith — was only planning to stay in Denver a year when he moved here about seven years ago. But as of this week, he’s the new Interim CEO for Denver Film.

Founded in 1978, Denver Film is the nonprofit cultural institution that produces film events throughout the year with a vision to cultivate community and transform lives through film. Its permanent home, the Sie FilmCenter, is Denver’s only year-round cinematheque, presenting a weekly changing calendar of first-run exclusives and arthouse revivals both domestic and foreign, narrative and documentary — over 600 per year, all shown in their original language and format. Denver Film programs annually reach more than 200,000 film lovers and film lovers in training.

One of those film lovers is Smith, who was the natural choice upon the sudden departure of former CEO James Mejia, a parting that all parties are defining as “amicable.” Smith, who served as staff director and chief marketing officer at the nonprofit for several years, was given the nod.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” Smith says. “I’ve really enjoyed my time getting to work with James. I hope that in my time in this position, I can help to build off that foundation. It’s been something of a whirlwind in the last two weeks, but we’re moving forward, and we have a lot of great opportunities ahead of us as an organization.”

Smith had planned to move to the West Coast or maybe New York City. But he came to Denver first because he had friends here, and he felt it was time to get out of the Detroit area, where he grew up. He’d gone to Michigan State, graduated with a marketing degree just in time for the 2008 economic crisis. He worked for a time with a state legislator who wrote the incentive bill to make Michigan the most economically attractive state for filmmaking in terms of tax benefit. “I had this amazing opportunity,” Smith says, “where I fell into working with these amazing films and TV shows over a few years."

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Left to right: Denver Film Artistic Director Matthew Campbell, Founder Ron Henderson, and Interim CEO Kevin Smith on Opening Night of Denver Film Festival 44
Denver Film
One of the first films Smith was involved with was Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. "It was a crazy time, but I really got a lot of insight into the independent film world, the film finance world, the production side of things. I really fell in love with the entrepreneurial side of independent filmmaking," says Smith. "Every independent film is, in my mind, also a small business startup. They face very similar challenges.”

But Smith says he “fell into his work with Denver Film at just the right time. During my first Denver Film Festival, I had an opportunity to work with the Best Friends Animal Society, which is the nonprofit that took care of all the dogs in the Michael Vick situation. I’ve always known the power of film, but their documentary [The Champions] talking about all these dogs and their lives after what they’d gone through really was a revelation. It was one of those things — such an impactful moment to see. I realized that we could have a major impact through film. There are so many stories, so many perspectives. From that moment on, I wanted to be with Denver Film for as long as I possibly could.”

In terms of what Smith is excited about in the near future, he mentions the upcoming Women+Film Festival, and the special-guest luncheon honoring the inimitable Rita Moreno and Carlotta Walls Lanier. But he also talks about the full comeback of Film on the Rocks and the August fundraiser Summer Scream. “It’ll be good to be back in Red Rocks for a full season of shows,” says Smith. “And [Summer Scream] should make for a good fun summer night for everybody.”

But the thing that Smith says he has his eye on is the upcoming golden anniversary for Denver Film. “This year is our 45th, so our fiftieth is looming,” Smith says. “There are a lot of opportunities in the next five years that could catapult Denver Film, and especially the Denver Film Festival, into the forefront of festivals on the circuit.”

In short? The future looks bright, and the show is only starting. Get your popcorn ready.

For more information on Denver Film and upcoming programming, see the website.