Bingham Ray (1954 – 2012), San Francisco Film Society Executive Director
The San Francisco Film Society regrets to announce that Executive Director Bingham Ray passed away on January 23 while attending the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
“The board of directors and staff of the Film Society are stunned and deeply saddened by the untimely death of our executive director Bingham Ray. 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,” said Pat McBaine, SFFS board president. “He shall be dearly missed. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Bingham’s family and his legions of friends and colleagues all over the world who loved and respected him.”
Ray brought his well-developed creative and business acumen to the running, reimagining and reinvigorating of a major nonprofit arts organization. Since taking the helm on November 7, 2011 he oversaw and crafted a cohesive plan to strengthen the Film Society’s exhibition, education and filmmakers services programs, including its most successful fall season to date; addressed the strenuous financial concerns facing nonprofit arts organizations today; focused particular attention on the operation of SF Film Society Cinema; connected to the local education community; broadened the outreach and impact of the project development and grants programs; and was well into plans for the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival.
He immediately became a part of the SF film world, hosting a reception at Tosca Café to introduce himself to the community; a special screening of California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown, attended by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife Anne Gust; and a preview of Pina with his old friend Wim Wenders, attended by Francis and Eleanor Coppola, Les Blank, Phil Kaufman and Tom Luddy.
“When Bingham took the job, we were ecstatic,” said SFFS board co-vice president and film producer Jen Chaiken. “It was an enormous vote of confidence for the organization that he was compelled to uproot his life to come run the Film Society. Bingham felt this job honored and tapped into the experience he’d garnered over the past 30 years. Bingham was one of those rare few who everyone knew on a first name only basis. He was one of a kind and will be deeply, deeply missed.”
Ray came to the San Francisco Film Society from New York City, where he recently served as the first run programming consultant to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, executive consultant to the digital distribution company SnagFilms and adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Ray cofounded October Films in 1991 and served as its copresident until its sale to USA Networks in 1999. October was one of the foremost independent film companies of the 1990s, winning two Oscars and garnering 13 Oscar nominations and top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival on three occasions. Some of October Films’ credits include the internationally acclaimed Secrets & Lies, The Apostle, Cookie’s Fortune, The Celebration, Lost Highway, The Last Seduction and Breaking the Waves.
In September 2001, Ray assumed the post of president of United Artists. During his tenure at UA, the company acquired and/or produced many highly acclaimed films such as No Man’s Land, winner of the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, winner of the 2002 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and the 2004 Academy Award-nominated Hotel Rwanda. Other United Artists films successfully released during Ray’s tenure include Jeepers Creepers 1 & 2, Nicholas Nickleby, Ghost World, Igby Goes Down and Pieces of April.
In 2007 Ray joined the Los Angeles-based production company Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and held two posts during his three-year tenure, president of Kimmel Distribution and president of creative affairs. In the first post Ray supervised all marketing and distribution plans for the original Death at a Funeral, Talk to Me, Lars and the Real Girl and Synecdoche, N.Y., among others. In the latter he was responsible for the development and production activities of the remake of Death at a Funeral, as well as supervising the development of a seven-film production slate.
Bingham Ray began his career in 1981 as manager/programmer of the Bleecker Street Cinema. He has been on the juries of the Sundance Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival and the Film Independent Spirit Awards. He has lectured on film production and development at the City College of New York’s Graduate Film School, Columbia University and New York University.
Ray is survived by his wife Nancy King, their children Nick, Annabel and Becca, and his sisters Susan Clair and Deb Pope.
San Francisco Film Society
Building on a legacy of more than 50 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Film Society is a national leader in exhibition, education and filmmaker services.
The Film Society presents 365 days of exhibition each year, reaching a total audience of 130,000 people. Its acclaimed education program introduces international, independent and documentary cinema and media literacy to more than 15,000 teachers and students and presents 120 classes and workshops annually. Through the filmmaker services program essential creative and business services, and funding totaling millions of dollars, are provided to deserving filmmakers of all levels.
The Film Society seeks to elevate all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge. A 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, it is largely donor and member supported. Patronage and membership provides discounted prices, access to grants and residencies, private events and a wealth of other benefits.
For more information visit sffs.org.