Given its track record for bringing innovative programming and A-list guests to the tip of the Cape, it’s no real surprise that the lineup for the 16th annual Provincetown International Film Festival includes premiere screenings, topical discussions, and appearances by David Cronenberg, Patricia Clarkson, and Debra Winger. What’s impressive is that this year it happened despite a shift in leadership less than two months before the festival’s June 18 opening.
The Provincetown Film Society, which manages the festival, the Waters Edge Cinema, and a newly conceived film institute, in January named filmmaker and festival consultant Mitch Levine as its CEO. He succeeded Gabby Hanna who, after 10 years as executive director, had announced that she would retire after the 2013 PIFF. In early May, Levine resigned because of what PIFF’s board of directors called “unforeseen personal matters.”
“I needed to depart because of a change in my personal circumstances, triggered by a health crisis,” Levine explained in an e-mail to the Globe last week. “I was sad to go; I had many plans for the fest and was excited to be part of the Provincetown community.
“I’m now back to my festival consulting life, working with film festivals and other presenters, filmmakers, and distribution companies around the world. And I’m continuing to pursue my own artistic muse as a filmmaker.”
The board on May 7 announced Christine Walker as interim executive director of the PFS. Walker, an independent film producer, has been a board member since 2011 and is chair of the task force that has been developing the film institute. “It made sense for me to step in,” she said.
Acknowledging that the executive director’s role is largely “overseeing the fiscal end,” Walker credits PIFF’s longtime artistic director Connie White and festival programmers Andrew Peterson and Lisa Viola with producing a solid festival despite Levine’s departure. It also helped that Jared Early, a 10-year PIFF veteran who programs the short films, was named the festival’s general manager.
“We knew we had to get someone in there to manage the festival and Jared had a big operational role last year,” said Walker. “We were lucky that a lot of people stepped up.”
The one concession made to the sudden change in leadership was that plans to expand the festival’s run to a full week were scrapped.
“[Levine] was working on that but we were used to a five-day festival, so we scaled it back,” Walker said.
She added that she expects the board to hire a permanent executive director by the end of the summer. She said she is not a candidate.
“It’s a great opportunity for a talented individual,” Walker concluded. “When we embarked on the [last] search, we had a number of qualified candidates, so we’ll circle back.”