As the 20th annual deadCenter Film Festival finished its first successful run at moving its content completely online, the organization also passed the torch of leadership as Lance McDaniel stepped down after 10 years as executive director and Alyx Picard Davis took the helm.
The new executive director played a crucial role in the festival achieving its success in 2020. In addition to overseeing more than 400 volunteers in her role as festival director and operations director, Picard Davis also serves as vice president of the Film Festival Alliance, an international organization of festival leaders.
In April, she met online with members of the organization to formulate a game plan for rolling out the festival in a virtual space. While many local events were forced to reschedule or cancel, the unique characteristics of film festivals allow them to move forward in online settings.
by George Lang, Free Press film critic
Festivalgoers missed out on the traditional parties and pageantry that usually take place during deadCenter, but the organization’s website, deadcenterfilm.org, served as a gathering place for independent film lovers. From there, ticket holders were taken to Eventive, the online portal for virtual festivals, where they could see feature films like Shifter, shorts like 1717 Primrose and documentaries like Billie.
McDaniel, who said he will not serve on deadCenter’s board, will continue to work in film; his latest project is the religious short film Send Me Wings, an entry in this year’s festival. McDaniel said Picard Davis’ hiring eight years ago changed the trajectory of the event.
“We hired her in 2012 to help us digitize and take all of our systems online,” McDaniel said in March. Since she has been there, we went from passing out DVDs to everything being online.”
He said Picard Davis also helped solidify a large base of volunteers, many of whom are yearly participants and provide continuity for the annual event.
“Our volunteer base became centered around her, and that’s when I felt, ‘She’s got it,’” McDaniel said. “Once she was able to create a community and lead that community as head of operations, I felt, ‘We’ve got it.’”
While Picard Davis said she will miss working with McDaniel on a daily basis, she looks forward to seeing what his next venture will be. McDaniel said he will be pursuing projects in the tech industry.
“I’m excited for him,” Picard Davis said. “It’s been so much fun to watch him grow as a person and creatively. He’s like a big brother to me at this point, so his next adventures will be fun to watch.”
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