Founder Hernandez: indieWIRE Won’t Be Hurt by My Departure

While Hernandez works to revive Film Comment in new job, indieWIRE expected to hire new talent and restructure

In the wake of founder and editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez’s departure to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, indieWIRE will undergo some restructuring and bring in new blood to help run the 15-year-old website and blog network, Hernandez told theWrap on Thursday afternoon.

Hernandez also said that his move, which will make him director of digital strategy at the company that runs the New York Film Festival and the long-running Film Comment magazine, was jump-started in late summer, when he met with new FSLC director Rose Kuo and board chairman Daniel Stern.

“Over the past year, I’ve had various discussions with folks there about the Film Society, and especially about Film Comment and what they could do with it,” he said. “They came back to me with an offer about three weeks ago, and I spent my time in Telluride and Toronto soul-searching and talking to my colleagues about it.”

The fate of the respected Film Comment, he said, will be one of his responsibilities, at least from the business side. “The board agrees with me that it needs to be preserved in its print format,” he says, “but it also needs to grow in the digital format. And that’s part of my position, to think about how to preserve it in print but expand it digitally.”

Hernandez added his job will entail looking for overall opportunities for the Film Society to grow and expand online and in the digital world, both through its own initiatives and through partnerships.

The Film Society is a non-profit organization undergoing significant expansion; next year, it will open two theaters in a new building in New York. "It is a dream job for me in that they are all about film as art," said Hernandez. "It takes me in a direction I've been wanting to go professionally."

He made the move, Hernandez insisted, only because he knew that indieWIRE had reached a position where it would not be hurt by his departure. The company was recently acquired by SnagFilms, a site that streams a library of around 1,600 films and will be included in the new Starbucks Digital Network initiative.

“I’ve always said, and I know this sounds cheesy, that I would feel great about leaving only if I was going someplace I really wanted to do, and if I knew that my leaving wouldn’t be to the detriment of indieWIRE,” he said.

Hernandez will keep his blog at indieWIRE even after he leaves the company. He would not comment on his involvement in new hirings, but he is expected to be a part of the discussions about bringing in new staffers to restructure the company as it moves forward.

He also said the website will unveil “a bit of a facelift” before Oct. 1.  

“There’s a core of Brian Brooks and James Israel who have been there for 10 years, and I spoke to them about the impact of me taking this position,” he said. “And I’m convinced that with the stability of Brian and James, the resources and infrastructure of [SnagFilms’] Ted [Leonsis], plus new ideas and energy, they’ll be in great shape.”

Hernandez will remain at indieWIRE until Oct. 28, and then fulfill a previous commitment to serve on the jury of the Sheffield Documentary Festival.

He begins at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on Nov. 1.