Brett Hendrie to Depart Hot Docs After 20 Year with the Festival

Outgoing Hot Docs executive director Brett Hendrie
Photo by Joseph Michael

By Pat Mullen

After 20 year with Hot Docs, executive director Brett Hendie is moving on from his position. Hendrie will depart Hot Docs for a new opportunity with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Hendrie leaves Hot Docs after 20 years with the organization, including the last eight as executive director.

A search is now in the works for a new executive director and Hendrie will assist with the transition through this year’s festival, which begins April 29. Hendrie will leave Hot Docs for his position with U of T once the programming and logistics have been finalized. Last week, Hot Docs advised press to expect the line-up announcement March 23 with over 200 titles streaming on the Hot Docs at Home platform.

“It has been an incredible privilege to be a part of this inspiring organization for twenty years, and an honour to advance its mission to champion documentary films and filmmakers,” said Hendrie in a statement from the festival. “I am deeply thankful to the innumerable colleagues, board members and partners with whom I collaborated, and am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Hot Docs’ reach and its capacity to support documentary’s vibrant voices have never been greater, and I’m confident it will take its ambitions to new heights and deepen its impact with audiences, filmmakers and the documentary community.”

“On behalf of my co-chair, Robin Mirsky, and the entire board of directors, I want to thank Brett for his immeasurable contributions and leadership over the years which have led to Hot Docs’ incredible growth and success,” said Lalita Krishna, co-chair of Hot Docs Board of Directors, in a statement. “Brett’s steady hand, thoughtfulness, energy and enthusiasm for our mission will be sorely missed. Speaking as a filmmaker, the opportunities he has spearheaded for the next generation of documentary storytellers have been invaluable and greatly appreciated.”

Under Hendrie’s leadership, Hot Docs has grown considerably to become one of the world’s premiere events for documentary, both for public audiences and industry stakeholders. According to figures provided by Hot Docs, the festival audience grew to 228,000. Last year, Hot Docs was the first major Canadian festival to pivot successful to on online edition when the coronavirus pandemic halted plans for an in-person event. This pivot included a partnership with CBC that broadcasted/streamed premieres for several weeks leading up to the virtual festival. Support for filmmakers through Hot Docs has also grown under Hendrie’s leadership with over $305,000 given in prizes, including the annual $50,000 Rogers Audience Award.

Other highlights achieved during Hendrie’s tenure with Hot Docs include the Scotiabank Big Ideas series during the festival. The Big Ideas screenings are the festival’s marquee events with talents like Big Bird actor Carroll Spinney, Star Trek star George Takei, folk icon Gordon Lightfoot, and artist/activist Ai Weiwei among the names headlining extended conversations with Hot Docs audiences. Hendrie’s years as executive director also saw the festival expand its programming to include interactive docs and virtual reality in the Doc X section, while the organization grew its educational component Docs for Schools substantially.

“It has been a personal career highlight to work alongside Brett for the past two decades,” added Chris McDonald, president of Hot Docs. “Among the many amazing accomplishments he leaves us—more engaged audiences, more support for filmmakers and richer ties to our documentary community—his tireless work to lead us through the uncertainties of this past year may be the most remarkable. He leaves us on a solid foundation and with great optimism and enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead.” McDonald will assume chief executive duties on an interim basis until Hot Docs confirms a new executive director.