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Bingham Ray, Indie Film Veteran, Dies at Sundance

The respected founder of October Films, 57, suffered a stroke at the festival

The respected independent film veteran Bingham Ray has died, the Sundance Film Festival announced on Monday. He was 57. 

 Ray suffered a stroke while at the festival on Friday. He had been in serious but stable condition in a Provo hospital since then and was surrounded by family when he died. 

He was named the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society in October.

Also read: Bingham Ray Remembered: Film World Mourns Loss of a Pioneer

News of Ray's stroke cast a pall over the festival as veterans of the close-knit independent film community queried each other anxiously for news of his condition. 

Almost immediately following his hospitalization, prominent members of the film community rushed to Ray's bedside.

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"On behalf of the independent film community here in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family," the Sundance Institute said in a statement. "Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten."

Ray is best known for co-founding October Films. Among the iconic independent films that he helped shepherd into theaters are "Secrets & Lies," "Breaking the Waves," and "The Apostle."

Also read: Bingham Ray, Indie Film Veteran, Has a Stroke While at Sundance

Ray helped launch October in 1991 and served as its co-president until its sale to USA Films in 1999. 

In September 2001, Ray became  president of United Artists, where he helped oversee such films as the Oscar-winning "No Man's Land," Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," and "Hotel Rwanda." 

Chris McGurk, the former president and chief operating officer of Universal Pictures and former vice chairman of the board and chief operating officer at MGM, told TheWrap that Ray "was a great friend and an amazing talent. I am shocked and heartbroken by his passing. He was a brilliant, supportive voice for independent film and we will all miss him dearly."

McGurk, now chairman of the board and CEO of Cinedigm, bought October Films when he was at Universal and brought Ray on as president of United Artists when he was at MGM.

In 2007 Ray joined the Los Angeles-based production company Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, serving as president of Kimmel Distribution and president of creative affairs. 

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In recent years, Ray became a vocal proponent for pushing indie film into the digital age.

"We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways," Pat McBaine, SFFS board president, said in a statement. 

Before heading the film society, Ray served as programming consultant to the Film Society of Lincoln Center and consultant to the digital distribution company SnagFilms. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. 

Ray is survived by his wife Nancy King, their children Nick, Annabel and Becca, and his sisters Susan Clair and Deb Pope.