They’re rolling out the red carpet for a new leadership team at Birmingham’s premiere film fest. The board of directors of the Alabama Moving Image Association, Inc. (AMIA) unveiled their new staff at the February 5 Sidewalk Salon. Announcements included not only new staff members, but a new organizational structure which will allow AMIA and its events, most visibly the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, to grow and thrive. The expanded staff will welcome enthusiastic newcomers to a team of seasoned Sidewalk veterans.

The AMIA is a non-profit organization created in 1999 with a mission to inspire films and filmmaking in Alabama – which it has done primarily by producing the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, now in its 9th year. Sidewalk has been recognized as a leading film festival in national publications like The Wall Street Journal and was named one of Time Magazine’s “Film Festivals for the Rest of Us.” In recent years, the AMIA has expanded to create the Sidewalk Scramble, the Sidewalk Salon, and Birmingham SHOUT Gay + Lesbian Film Festival.

“I’ve been with Sidewalk since the very beginning and after eight great years it seems like we’re getting a brand new start,” reports board president Alan Hunter. “We’ve designed a broader team approach this year, and are implementing a plan that will sustain Sidewalk and the AMIA for many years.”

Leading the staff is the AMIA’s longtime program manager, Catherine Pfitzer, now in the role of executive director. Pfitzer’s roots lie in documentary filmmaking, a path which led her to the Sidewalk office door in 2003. In 2004, Pfitzer created the Scramble, Sidewalk’s popular weekend filmmaking competition. Before joining the Sidewalk/AMIA team, Pfitzer founded and directed the improv comedy company Torrential Downplay.

“Creating opportunities for filmmakers and filmgoers with the AMIA and Sidewalk has been incredibly rewarding,” says Pfitzer. “I’m thrilled to be working with such a talented team of professionals and volunteers, and together we plan to further the legacy that’s been established over the past 8 years.”

New to the year-round AMIA team is Natalie Hummel as project coordinator. A graduate of Birmingham-Southern, Hummel is a regular Sidewalk volunteer and active producer in the local film community. She leaves her position at Ram Tool in order to join the AMIA team.

Keri Lane Hontzas also returns as the festival producer for Sidewalk in September, a position she’s held since the festival’s first year. In addition to producing the Sidewalk film festival, Hontzas does freelance event promotions consulting and management. She is also the owner of FLIX, Inc. a company which produces outdoor film festivals throughout the Southeast.

“Over the years, not only has Sidewalk been recognized as a leading film festival, but we have hosted guests in the filmmaking industry from all over the globe providing vital exposure to the great things our city and state have to offer,” explains Hontzas. “The continued growth and support of Sidewalk will only further enhance our mission and this positive exposure. It is an honor to be a part of this success. I look forward to working with this new team on Sidewalk.”

Two additional new members of the Sidewalk festival staff have been tasked with programming the 2007 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival: Kyle McKinnon and Rachel Morgan. Both programmers are filmmakers and have actively participated in the Sidewalk’s volunteer screening committee for several years. McKinnon is a producer for the award-winning Team Bloodjet! Morgan is an award-winning documentarian and film educator.

The Sidewalk Salon takes place the first Monday of every month at Rojo restaurant, located at 2921 Highland Avenue in Birmingham’s Southside. It is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:00 pm, and the presentation begins at 7:00 pm.

The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival is scheduled for September 28-30, 2007. Birmingham SHOUT is set for April 27+28+29, 2007.

The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Birmingham SHOUT, the Sidewalk Salon, and the Scramble are all projects of the Alabama Moving Image Association, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created to encourage and inspire films and filmmaking in Alabama.

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