TELLURIDE – Longtime Telluride Mountainfilm Executive Director Peter Kenworthy has announced he will step down on Oct. 17.
“It has been a long, successful ride for me at Mountainfilm,” Kenworthy said last week, “and I feel I am leaving the organization in a good place. All that I set out to do when I started eight years ago, I feel I have accomplished, and more. Now, it’s time for me to try something completely new.”
To that end, Kenworthy will embark on a long-held dream of building his own house.
“Building a house, along with writing a book and sailing around the world, have always been my three biggest bucket-list dreams,” he said.
Kenworthy logged two decades in the banking business, half of that time in Telluride, before stepping down a decade ago to write a book – Bank Job, a historical fiction about the town’s second-most-famous bank robbery, committed in 1929 by Telluride Bank President C.D. Waggoner. He then spent a year traveling and teaching English for six months in China; from 2005-2006, Kenworthy worked at The Watch; in June 2006 he joined Mountainfilm.
During Kenworthy’s tenure, Mountainfilm has “changed a lot,” he allowed, citing Mountainfilm on Tour as perhaps the organization’s most compelling example of change. The far-flung tour now reaches an audience of roughly 40,000 every year, visiting more than 100 locations on five continents, from Norway to Brazil, and Homer, Alaska to Savannah, Georgia, to New York City’s Lincoln Center. Each of the tour’s 125 ready-to-travel shows, with films selected for the mother ship Memorial Day Weekend festival that’s taken place in Telluride since 1979, is emceed by a Mountainfilm representative guiding the audience through the evening’s program, often sharing personal stories about with the filmmaker, or the film’s subject.
Kenworthy is confident that the tour has “unlimited potential to expand the brand” that Telluride Mountainfilm has established, with its fast-growing audience that “spans all the demographics, from age to gender, income and education level.” That audience does have a common denominator, he suggested, comprising people who are interested in stories about “issues that matter,” with “a little bit of adventure and adrenaline, education and inspiration and entertainment thrown in.”
The Mountainfilm board has begun its search for Kenworthy’s successor.
“One of the main criteria, obviously, is an applicant who is qualified and credentialed” to run the festival, but then too, that applicant must be “someone coming from within the Mountainfilm community, who’s familiar with the festival and the organization,” Kenworthy said.
“What a bummer,” said Mountainfilm Festival Director David Holbrooke, of Kenworthy’s looming departure.
“Peter has done a remarkable job,” Holbrooke said, “in getting Mountainfilm from where it was to where it needed to be.
“I certainly feel like I’ve been a part of that, and staff has been a part of that, but Peter has really been the one who made it happen. Mountainfilm today, wow – it’s in large part due to Peter.”
Holbrooke is finishing up a documentary, The Diplomat, about his father, Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who died in December 2010, who was remembered by the New York Times as “a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s,” overseeing “the negotiations that ended the war in Bosnia.” Holbrooke expects to show his film at next year’s festival.
Will Mountainfilm change in the wake of Kenworthy’s departure?
“I feel like it’s in a really good place right now,” Kenworthy said. “The trains are running on time. There’s an interest in education initiatives,” with free school shows in conjunction with Mountainfilm on Tour. “It needs now the level of enthusiasm and innovation that I helped to introduce, but taken to another level.”
But don’t expect too much to change in the way of day-to-day operations for the main festival.
“It might get somewhat bigger, but not a lot bigger,” Kenworthy said. “We love the intimacy of it. We love that collegial feel.”