The Lone Star Film Society, the organization responsible for Fort Worth’s biggest movie event -- the Lone Star Film Festival every November -- is without two of its most public faces as director Alec Jhangiani and managing director Ramtin Nikzad resigned this week over a disagreement with the board regarding the future direction of LSFS.
Jhangiani had been with Lone Star since 2007; Nikzad started in 2009. Their last official day was Monday, June 15.
“Basically, Lone Star Film Society had reached the point that we knew it was something that the community valued and that the phase of viability was complete. Now, the focus was on sustainability and permanence and how we’re going to keep this thing going...Since 2008, the climate has changed [for arts non-profits]. We need to get more smart and savvy about what we do,” said Jhangiani. “Ultimately, they didn’t want to make those changes which was 100 percent their decision to make and I respect that. I couldn’t add value to what we already had under those circumstances.”
Nikzad said there were irreconcilable differences, though neither he nor Jhangiani would go into details as to what the differences were.
The Lone Star Film Society released a statement Tuesday afternoon but didn’t offer many details either.
“To expand its outreach in North Texas and beyond, LSFS announces new leadership and new synergies this summer,” it reads. “The Board of Directors gratefully acknowledges the generous and dedicated service of departing Board members Tina Gorski and Shannon Wynne, and welcomes new Board members Ginger Head Gearheart and Steve Murrin. LSFS also wishes to thank departing executive team members, Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad, as they pursue new filmmaking and festival opportunities.”
The release says that many of the Society’s projects, such as the Arthouse FW series at the Modern, the Lone Star Film Festival, and the Lone Star Ball will continue.
When reached Tuesday afternoon, board member and treasurer William Conley said, “We’re always having reviews of direction,” but didn’t go deeper into any source of friction.
He says both Jhangiani and Nikzad left on their own accord to pursue other interests and did a good job during their time with LSFS. “It wasn’t a gunfight in the streets,” he said of their exit.
No decision has been made yet about replacements. “We’re going to take the time and take a step back,” he says of any potential hiring. “We want to get the right individual.”
Jhangiani, who was in Los Angeles this week for an L.A. Film Festival screening of a film he produced called A Country Called Home, says he plans to pursue film production. Nikzad says he also has other film-related projects.
The changes come at a crucial time for the Lone Star Film Society. The film festival will be celebrating its ninth year this fall. It had been gaining a regional reputation and staking out a somewhat more adventurous turf than some other North Texas festivals. Titles shown last year included such acclaimed films as The Babadook and It Follows. The next festival is set for Nov. 5-8.
“I’ve been through these changes before and it can be difficult,” says Kelly Williams, an Austin-based film festival programmer who has worked on the Lone Star Film Festival in the past. “When you bring in someone new, it changes the feel, the pace and the vibe of it. The programming will be different. It will change the festival for sure.”
He says he hopes it can continue to grow as the options for non-mainstream cinema in Fort Worth are limited. “Outside of that and The Modern, there’s a void,” he says. “The festival will evolve in a different way. It may end up being something great like it has been.”
Jhangiani concurs. “I didn’t see a way I could lead LSFS to grow without the changes I proposed,” he wrote in an e-mail. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t.”
UPDATE: Operations manager Jane Rodriguez is also leaving.