Each year the Art House Convergence community celebrates achievements in film exhibition and contributions to the fields of art house and independent cinema with the Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award and the Founders’ Distinguished Service Award (The Russell B. Collins Award).

Awards are presented during the Annual Conference.

Founders’ Distinguished Service Award

This award celebrates outstanding achievements in mission-driven cinema exhibition and recognizes an individual who has consistently enriched their community by providing public access to exceptional cinematic experiences.

2020 — Stephanie Silverman, Belcourt Theatre

Stephanie has been Executive Director of the Belcourt, a three-screen non-profit film center dedicated to presenting the best in contemporary and repertory cinema, for over a decade. Under her leadership the historic cinema has expanded and undergone a major renovation, with its bright, accessible expanded space debuting in 2016. The Belcourt is widely recognized as a national model for sustainable art house theaters by its peers and industry leaders.

Throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Stephanie is an admired arts leader — deeply engaged in local and regional civic conversations about the arts, and garnering accolades and awards that have included Nashvillian of the Year (from The Nashville Scene) and CEO of the Year (from Nashville’s Center for Nonprofit Management). The Scene noted that Stephanie has brought a “vision and an energy to the Belcourt that is inseparable from its success.” However, despite these and other recognitions, Stephanie will always deflect praise for her Belcourt achievements to laud the talents and accomplishments of Belcourt staff as a whole.

2019 — Taylour Chang, Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Taylour Chang curates and oversees the Honolulu Museum of Art’s film and music department. The Doris Duke Theatre is Honolulu’s singular mission-driven, community-based non-profit art house theatre, focused on independent and foreign cinema, with ten film festivals (Bollywood Film Festival, Honolulu African-American Film Festival, Filipino Film Festival, Honolulu Jewish Film Festival, Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, Honolulu Surf Film Festival, Cultural Animation Film Festival, French Film Festival, Oiwi/Native Hawaiian Film Festival, and Korean Film Festival), repertory programming, themed series, specialty events, a year-long concert line-up, and a hip-hop music education program that works with youth from underserved communities. Under her leadership, the theatre has increased its audience base, maintained fiscal responsibility, and has developed a reputation for its bold programming relevant to the social and political climate of the times. She works closely with over 150 community partners throughout the year, which includes film festival committees representing different sectors of Hawaii’s diverse community. 

Chang has served as Co-Chair of the Art House Convergence Annual Conference from 2017 to 2019. She served as Co-Chair of Alliance for Action, a collective of art house exhibitors and distributors addressing racial, gender, and economic inequity in the art house community. She serves on the board of the Friends of the East West Center, Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking, and Farrington High School’s Creative Arts and Technology program.

2018 — Dylan Skolnick, Cinema Arts Centre

Dylan Skolnick is Co-Director at the Cinema Arts Centre, Long Island’s leading venue for alternative film. There he programs and supervises the Cinema’s monthly film programs and acclaimed series, including “Cinema Showcase,” “Anything But Silent,” and “Real-to-Reel Documentaries.”  These groundbreaking series have given the Centre its reputation for quality, artistic integrity, and ingenuity in presenting independent film to the public. He maintains the Centre’s forty-plus year focus on using film to expand the awareness and understanding of Long Islanders to the vital local and global issues facing our society.
The Cinema Arts Centre Co-Directors have received honors for community impact from many organizations, including the Long Island Progressive Coalition, PAX Christi, Planned Parenthood, NYCLU, and the NOW Alliance PAC of Long Island.

2017 — Russel B. Collins, Michigan Theater Foundation

Russ Collins is a non-profit arts administrator with an entrepreneurial approach to management. Since 1982, he has grown the Michigan Theater Foundation (MTF) in Ann Arbor, into an internationally recognized community-based, mission-driven arts organization. Operating two restored historic theaters: Michigan Theater – 1920s era movie palace; State Theatre – 1940s cinema style theater.  They each operate 365-days each year as elegant, non-profit arts facilities. The MTF is widely recognized as an outstanding independent cinema exhibitor and performing arts venue. In 2008, in participation with the Sundance Film Festival, Russ founded the Art House Convergence – a dynamic professional society for independent cinema operators. In 2012, he started  the Cinetopia Festival, the international film festival for the Detroit metropolitan area.

Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes an individual whose exceptional contributions to art house and independent film have sustained and invigorated the theatrical experience for future generations.

2020 — Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo, Zeitgeist Films

Since founding Zeitgeist in 1988, Gerstman and Russo have been responsible for the release of over 200 films including important early works by Todd Haynes, Christopher Nolan, François Ozon, Laura Poitras, Atom Egoyan, and the Quay Brothers. Starting in a single office with a shared love of film and a desire not to work for anyone else, Gerstman and Russo forged a visionary partnership, building a catalogue of films from some of the world’s most outstanding filmmakers including Margarethe von Trotta, Guy Maddin, Derek Jarman, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Peter Greenaway, Andrei Zvyagintsev, Yvonne Rainer, Agnés Varda, Abbas Kiarostami, and Raoul Peck. They are champions of the art house experience and have committed themselves to ensuring that documentaries and films from around the world remain available to audiences everywhere.

In 2003 Zeitgeist’s film Nowhere in Africa won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and in 2008 the Museum of Modern Art celebrated their twentieth anniversary with the retrospective “Zeitgeist: The Films of Our Time” featuring titles including Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Todd Haynes’ Poison, and Yvonne Rainer’s Privilege. Celebrating these accomplishments, MoMA’s Rajendra Roy observed “For 20 years, Emily and Nancy have proven to be both die-hard businesswomen and uncompromising connoisseurs of excellent cinema.” Gerstman and Russo are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Executive Branch.

2019 — Amy Heller and Dennis Doros, Milestone Films

For over twenty years Amy Heller and Dennis Doros have dedicated themselves to restoring and distributing films that have been lost, overlooked, and under-appreciated. In collaboration with film archives and labs from around the world, they have celebrated and increased access to the works of Charles Burnett, Shirley Clarke, Lois Weber, Billy Woodberry, Leo Hurwitz, Kathleen Collins, Margot Benacerraf, George Nierenberg, Kent Mackenzie, Rob Epstein, and Jeffrey Friedman. Collectively, they “mess with the canon,” challenging presumptions about film history to create the infrastructure for a richer and more diverse version of film history. Their efforts have consistently enhanced public awareness of creative achievements by female, LGBTQ, African American, Latinx, and Indigenous artists and have empowered innovative repertory programming. 

Their contributions to the field have been commemorated with the National Society of Film Critics’ Film Heritage Award and the first-ever Special Archival Award, the NY Film Critics Circle’s Special Award (twice), the LA Film Critics’ first ever Legacy of Cinema Award, and Anthology Film Archive’s Film Preservation Honor. 

Prior to founding Milestone Films, Heller worked in distribution at First Run Features, where she worked with Nancy Gerstman (co-founder of Zeitgeist Films), and then at New Yorker Films, where she found two great mentors in Dan Talbot and Jose Lopez. Doros began his career at Kino International where he was responsible for restoring Erich von Stroheim’s Queen Kelly and Raoul Walsh’s Sadie Thompson, and helped start Kino’s now famous video division.

In 2016 they produced their first documentary, Ross Lipman’s NOTFILM and they continue to introduce audiences to rarely seen classics, and release titles of creative, political, and social significance. 

2018 — Gary Meyer

Gary Meyer co-founded Landmark Theatres in 1975. It became a national art house chain focused on creative marketing strategies to build loyal audiences for non-Hollywood fare and helping to launch the careers of dozens of filmmakers. Gary led his team to create a variety of film festivals and special events as counter-programming to the increasing competition from home video and cable. An in-house distribution company, Expanded Entertainment released restored classics and new works by Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut, Agnes Varda and Andy Warhol among others in addition to numerous feature-length compilations of new animation and other short films that Meyer co-produced. After the partners sold Landmark, Gary consulted on many projects including Sundance Cinemas and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rose Cinemas, the revival of Landmark’s first venue, the U.C. Theatre as a live music venue, created numerous film festivals ranging from Animation Celebration, Dockers’ Classically Independent to the Tube Film Festival for the X Games and the no-budget Booneville Solstice Fest.  In 2001 he resurrected the 1926 Balboa Theatre in San Francisco and joined the Telluride Film Festival in 1998, becoming a Festival Co-Director (2007-2014). Gary founded the online magazine, EatDrinkFilms.com in April 2014 and the EatDrinkFilms Feastival presenting food and beverage related movies. He consults with film festivals, independent filmmakers and art cinemas and in 2017 became part the Devour! Food Film Festival team and consults various film festivals including Morelia, Scottsdale International and Turner Classic Movies.

2017 — Ira Deutchman

Ira Deutchman loves movies. He has spent the better part of the last 45 years watching, studying, teaching, distributing, marketing, and producing them. In 1981, Ira Deutchman joined the venerable studio United Artists, where he oversaw marketing during a substantial transformation of the United Artists Classics specialty label. The unit quickly found success with such titles as Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva (1981), Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro (1980) and The Woman Next Door (1981), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen and Lola (both 1981), Polish master Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron (1981), and documentaries like The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time (1981). Deutchman was personally involved in the re-releases of a number of ignored or under-appreciated films, including Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way, and Joan Micklin Silver’s Chilly Scenes of Winter.

In 1982, immediately after leaving UA Classics, Deutchman branched out on his own and co-founded Cinecom International Films, which specialized in distributing American independent films.  Rather than compete in bidding wars for exhibition rights of foreign films,  Deutchman focused on procuring low-cost films of quality from proven veterans or untried newcomers. He worked closely with an impressive cadre of directors including Robert Altman, John Sayles, Jonathan Demme, and James Ivory, and worked hard to build personal relationships with all. As the President of Marketing and Distribution, Deutchman carefully strategized the release of critically acclaimed movies such as Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), Starstruck (1983), Angelo My Love(1983), El Norte (1983), Stop Making Sense (1984), The Brother From Another Planet (1984), Swimming to Cambodia (1987), and Matewan (1987). The company’s biggest success was James Ivory’s A Room With a View (1985), which was nominated for eight Academy Awards (winning three), and which launched the careers of Daniel Day-Lewis and Helena Bonham Carter.

In the late 1980s, Ira Deutchman formed his own marketing and consulting firm, the Deutchman Company, working with future rival Miramax on the promotion and distribution of what would become one of the signature independent films of the era – Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape (1989). In 1990 he founded Fine Line Features, a specialty division of the independent distributor New Line Cinema. Along with competitors Miramax and USA Films (later Focus Features), Fine Line quickly became a driving force in shaping the indie scene of the 1990s. During Deutchman’s time at the company, Fine Line released a slate of films by some of cinema’s most renowned directors, including Jim Jarmusch (Night on Earth, 1991), Gillian Armstrong (The Last Days of Chez Nous, 1992), Roman Polanski (Bitter Moon, 1992), Mike Leigh (Naked, 1993), David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey, 1994), Alan Rudolph (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, 1994), Whit Stillman (Barcelona, 1994), and many others. He also helped shepherd Robert Altman’s career resurgence with The Player (1992) and Short Cuts (1993).

Ira Deutchman also helped to change the game for feature documentaries. Most notably, Fine Line distributed Steve James’ Hoop Dreams (1994), a three-hour documentary following the story of two African-American teenagers from the Chicago projects as they progressed from grade school to college. Receiving rave reviews, the film went on to become one of the top-grossing documentaries of all time. The film’s surprising failure to capture any major Oscar nominations led to widespread criticism, and ultimately to a major overhaul of the Academy’s nomination process.

Since leaving Fine Line in 1995, Deutchman has produced an eclectic slate of films including Kiss Me, Guido (1997), 54 (1998), All I Wanna Do (1998), Lulu on the Bridge (1998), Way Past Cool (2000), The Center of the World (2001), Ball in the House (2001), Interstate 60 (2002), The Lucky Ones (2003), The Game of Their Lives (2005), Beauty Remains (2005), Red Doors (2005), The Speed of Life (2007), and For Real (2009). He also founded the innovative production-distribution company Emerging Pictures, which found success by distributing feature films in venues that weren’t originally designed to be movie theaters.