Film Society taps Mara Manus

She'll oversee a rebranding strategy for the company

NEW YORK -- The Film Society of Lincoln Center has nabbed its third executive director in 37 years from another top New York cultural institution: former Public Theater executive director Mara Manus.

Manus will oversee the 46-year-old New York Film Festival and other film programs, the Lincoln Center-based film center due in late 2010, Film Comment magazine and several of the city's premier cultural events.

Despite a recent NYFF promo trailer proudly trumpeting criticism that the fest and its audience are "demanding, inflexible and insanely selective," Manus says she will help oversee a "rebranding strategy" that will build a greater community and wider film industry base.

"We want people to know we provide a standard of excellence and serious filmmaking, but that we're not just about foreign films. We're much bigger than that," she said. "It's about 'How can we make people into film lovers?' It feels like a moment of rebirth."

Prior to her six years at the Public (which involved overseeing Shakespeare in the Park and a 50th anniversary gala), Manus awarded multi-million dollar grants as Program Officer at the Ford Foundation and helped those struggling with poverty as President and Executive Director of the non-profit Chrysalis. But her start was in the Los Angeles entertainment industry as a longtime exec at MCA Universal, New World Pictures and Trans-Pacific Films, as well as associate producing New Line's Tupac Shakur vehicle "Above The Rim."

Though FSLC will never be a film market, its programs draw film execs looking to launch projects, as well as scout for specialty film pickups and emerging talent, something Manus wants to expand. "We want more people in LA to experience what we have to offer, and explore how we can make the industry feel [our films aren't] overly specialized even though we're discerning, and that they can be a part of it."

FSLC board president Daniel Stern says "her expertise in strategic planning and fundraising, as well as her knowledge of the city, will serve us well in charting a new future that maximizes the expanded capability of a new film center in an extremely complex landscape."

Manus says the center's two screening rooms and amphitheater with seating for 90, 150 and 300 people may go beyond such programs as New Directors/New Films to function as art house theaters for self-released films and other indies in a city with a dwindling number of such venues.

Fifteen year FSLC vet Claudia Bonn served as Executive Director since 2003, succeeding Joanne Koch, who served for 37 years. Koch launched the position two years after FSLC was founded in 1969. The cultural organization executive search firm Phillips Oppenheim helped bring in Manus.