NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ Film & Media Arts Organization, has announced the upcoming departure of Executive Director Robert Kushner, who will step down from his role in 2019 following the successful 30th Anniversary of the New York LGBTQ Film Festival this past fall. Kushner is leaving to focus on new development projects and the NewFest Board of Directors is activating a public search to replace Kushner with intentions to fill the role in the coming months.
“Leading this organization in its mission to promote and share the wide-ranging voices of the LGBTQ community through film is by far the most fulfilling role of my career,” said Kushner. “At a time when NewFest is ready to re-assert its independence and stature as a leading platform for queer films and filmmakers, I have unwavering confidence in NewFest’s dynamic year-round staff and am excited to pass the baton on to a new generation of leaders who are sure to honor this legacy and take the organization to even greater heights.”
The organization has also announced the promotion of Programming & Operations Manager Nick McCarthy to Director of Programming, a role formerly filled through a festival programming partnership with Outfest. McCarthy’s new appointment as head of programming includes overseeing all NewFest’s year-round curation, as well as the annual New York’s LGBTQ Film Festival.
“I’m delighted and honored to continue the tradition of delivering a world-class film festival program that fully represents our vibrant queer community,” said McCarthy. “With the 50th anniversary of Stonewall occurring this year, it’s even more essential to celebrate NYC’s contributions to human rights victories and amplify the human stories that capture the history and creative energy of our great city.”
Kushner took over as Executive Director in late 2014 after having served on NewFest’s board of directors since 2010. During the course of his tenure as Executive Director, NewFest re-emerged from being a one-screen summer festival in 2014 with 44 films to a year-round non-profit organization featuring numerous successful programs and series, including a six-screen film festival each October. Last year’s festival featured over 140 films from 32 countries, including BOY ERASED and RAFIKI, and attendance of year-round programming has grown to nearly 16,000.
Kushner led in re-establishing NewFest as one of the world’s most prominent and supportive platforms for LGBTQ films in part by making the festival independent from its prior home at Film Society of Lincoln Center (2011-2104); by moving the festival from summer to late fall; by engaging corporate sponsors such as Presenting Sponsor HBO and expanding ongoing funders; by building an annual membership program; and by hiring full-time staff to help operate and grow the organization.
In 2016 Kushner hired McCarthy as Programming & Operations Manager, and together they created annual and monthly programs that make LGBTQ film accessible throughout the year, such as the monthly series NewFest at The Center Presents; the three-day Pride month event OutCinema, in partnership with NYC Pride and SVA Theatre; the retrospective series Coming Out Again at Quad Cinema; and a summer outdoor screening program in partnership with Rooftop Films.
Since 2015, NewFest forged robust partnerships with over 150 LGBTQ and ally organizations, including The LGBT Community Center, The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, and the New York City Department of Education, with whom they produce empowerment programs for high school students.
One of NewFest’s most valued partners since has been Outfest, producer of Los Angeles’s LGBTQ Film Festival. Through this collaboration on festival programming, which began in 2011, Outfest’s Director of Programming has served the same role for NewFest’s annual festival. With the promotion of Nick McCarthy to NewFest’s Director of Programming, 2018’s festival marked the conclusion of their partnership. The two organizations will continue to support each other in their joint missions of promoting LGBTQ stories.
Dates were also announced for the three-day Pride event and fall annual film festival. The 4th Annual OutCinema, with NYC Pride and SVA Theatre, will take place June 17 to 19 and the 31st Annual New York LGBT Film Festival will take place October 23 to 29, 2019.