On October 31, 2011 the ashland independent film festival bids farewell to Tom Olbrich, our executive leader for the past eight years. It is a bittersweet moment. All of us at AIFF wish Tom the very best in his new adventures and are deeply indebted to him for his leadership, but we will miss his passion, laughter and vision both in our office and in our organization.
Tom joined the AIFF as its first paid staff member in the fall of 2003. The organization was gearing up for its third festival, which honored the lifetime achievements of Gerald Hirschfeld, A.S.C. Tom didn’t miss a beat, doubling the prior year’s attendance and showcasing such films as The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and What the Bleep Do We Know? Under Tom’s leadership, the success of the festival has continued to blossom each year since, with a parade of notable honorees and guests including such industry greats as Will Vinton, Henry Jaglom, Bruce Campbell, Les Blank, Albert Maysles, Helen Hunt, Ed Hardy, Harry Shearer and Morgan Spulock – among many others. AIFF’s audience has continued to grow each year, with the 10th Annual setting a new record of over 18,000 distributed tickets. Industry recognition for the AIFF has been stellar under Tom’s leadership. In 2008 the festival received its first Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences grant – with another to follow in 2010; in 2009, AIFF was named one of the” Top 25 Festivals Worth The Entry Fee” byMovieMaker magazine, and accolades pour in each year from filmmakers and industry professionals around the country. Local community involvement under Tom’s leadership has grown significantly as well – his outreach efforts helped to involve a record 368 (amazing!) volunteers in 2011, and engender the generous support of many individuals and businesses alike. But perhaps the most telling testament to Tom’s leadership at AIFF is this statistic: over 90% of audience attendees say they will return to AIFF and that they would recommend the festival to a friend.
On a more personal note, I have had the honor of working alongside Tom for five of his eight years at AIFF, as a festival fan, volunteer and board member. During that time, we’ve shared many, many triumphs – and a few challenges. Throughout, I have been impressed by his mastery in orchestrating this incredible annual event, by his unfailing good cheer and compassion, and by his true commitment to independent film and our community.
We invite you to join us in this celebration of our good friend and fearless leader by commenting on this Facebook post.