SIFF is advertising for a new top dog: In a startling yet understandable move, Seattle International Film Festival chief curator and festival director Carl Spence is leaving his job after 13 years.
“I will still be doing some work for SIFF [through 2017],” says Spence, one of the more illustrious talents in American film for the past two decades. Nobody else could have gotten “Braveheart” as the 1995 SIFF season-opener. "After all the founders’ frenetic, wilting-sparkler energy, it was a relief when Carl brought his calm, focused temperament to SIFF,” says Brian Miller, who covered the festival from 2000-2015 for Seattle Weekly. “Since then he’s balanced good taste and sound management, which is a rare thing in the arts world.”
A UW theater grad and Japanese culture scholar, Spence studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and started out programming concerts and live performances (such as Phish and Ellen DeGeneres) at the UW, then went on to be Director of Programming at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; Director of Programming at the San Francisco International Film Festival; and Associate Director at SIFF prior to his skyrocket rise to the top job. He also worked in field publicity and promotions as a representative for Disney, MGM, and other major studios.
SIFF Director of programming Beth Barrett is now artistic director. In an Indiewire exclusive report, Spence reveals he will be starting a film consulting business called CCS Arts, focused on film and the arts, and spending more time with his husband Nathan Carson, a Nordstrom exec, and their kids, aged 5 and 8. “They really need my attention,” Spence told Indiewire. “They get frustrated when I’m on my computer, on my phone and watching movies they can’t see.”
This may be the first time that a major public figure said he was quitting to spend more time with his family and was actually telling the truth.
Updated: This post was edited since its original publication. Spence's husband works at Nordstrom and not Sur la Table. We regret the error.