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Hot Docs Announces Changes to Governance

Co-chairs step down amid board restructuing

5 mins read

Hot Docs announced some major changes to its board and governance practices. On Tuesday, June 18, the festival noted via press release a restructuring of its board of directors. The news was also reported by The Globe & Mail. Co-chairs Robin Mirsky and Lalita Krishna have stepped down from their positions. In a statement, Hot Docs notes that they will both “continue to support the organization in other capacities” and “have been incredible champions of Hot Docs and have greatly contributed to its success.”

Mirsky is the executive director of the Rogers Group of Funds and has long been a key player in the ecosystem for documentary financing. Krishna is a producer and veteran member of the Documentary Organization of Canada, which founded Hot Docs in 1993. She played a key role in the development of the DOC Institute, the Ontario chapter of DOC that offers professional development resources for filmmakers, and received the Don Haig Award from Hot Docs in 2021 in recognition of her history of mentorship.

The changes follow the quiet appointment of Janice Dawe as interim executive director on May 6. Dawe is a veteran of the documentary field with experience from all corners of the scene, most recently as founder of the business affairs strategy firm Bizable Media. Dawe received the DOC Luminary Award from the DOC Institute last fall in honour of her work supporting documentary filmmakers. She has been leading Hot Docs since the close of this year’s festival with The Globe & Mail reporting that current president Marie Nelson is on leave. (Nelson’s tenure coincided with numerous accumulating financial and operational difficulties in the wake of COVID-related closures, changing audience habits, and inflation.) The organization closed its flagship, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, for the summer last week to reduce expenses and do an operational detox.

Hot Docs announced further changes beyond the co-chairs, however, noting that the board agreed  by consensus to scale down to a three-member working board. At present, those board members are filmmaker Nicholas de Pencier (Anthropocene), Kevin Wong of Nulogy (a corporation that focuses on brand solution and supply chain management), and Lydia Luckevich of Pemberley Investments Ltd. Prior to the shake-up, DOC members had a majority share of the board seats although represented independent perspectives. (DOC also founded POV, although all three entities operate independently.)

The festival further noted that its process of reviewing the Board “includes an examination of the Board’s composition and structure, a governance review that will clarify and update the rules and regulations by which the Board governs the organization, and a review of the Board skills matrix and recruitment policies.” It is generally expected that Hot Docs will have a 2025 festival in some capacity.

Update (6/20/2024): In a statement released June 19, DOC expressed its support for the changes to governance as steps towards redressing some of the challenges the festival is facing. “We deeply appreciate the dedication of the Board members who stepped down yesterday,” wrote DOC in a statement. “Their commitment and significant contributions to Hot Docs and the documentary community have been invaluable, and we are committed to honoring their legacy and support for the festival. . We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that Hot Docs thrives as a festival rooted in the documentary community.”

DOC also released some points and calls to action from its town hall on the Hot Docs situation, which was held on May 2. Items that DOC seeks Hot Docs to address include a shift away from a reliance on corporate funding, strengthen its focus on Canadian cinema, and re-engage members of the community who can advocate for the festival.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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