Support Canyon

A Letter from Denah Johnston

Posted July 27th, 2015 in Announcements, News / Events

Dear friends, collaborators, community at large:

I am moved to write a letter to let everyone know that I am stepping down from my position as Executive Director to take on a tenure-track teaching position in the Cinema Department at San Francisco City College and that my last day in the office will be Wednesday July 29th. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. A formal statement is forthcoming from the Board of Directors about the nuts and bolts of what happens next in the big picture.

For some time I have been in communication with the Board of Directors about a leadership transition to ensure that the organization stays on track. As of August 1st I will no longer be in the office – but this does not mean I won’t be around. Antonella Bonfanti, who has served for over two years as Collection Manager is stepping into the role of Director. I have great confidence that she will prove to be a steadfast, reliable and competent leader of the organization as Canyon steers into the future. Antonella’s institutional and hands-on knowledge of the materials in the collection and relationships with not only our filmmakers but also our constituents, collaborators and customers will indeed come in handy and are quite essential for the continued success of the organization.

Those of you who have worked with me directly know, I could never just walk away from Canyon – quickly it became apparent to me that the work is never done, and besides it is too close to my heart. It has not only been a job for me but in many ways a passion project. Not only have I been committed to engaging in vital strategic planning which is slated to begin August 2nd, but in this past week I embarked on what some had told me is the life-altering experience of the NAMAC Creative Leadership Lab at Sundance. Had I not been entrenched in the challenges and unique circumstances that Canyon’s program of film access faces in an ever-changing media climate I would certainly not have applied. I saw it as an opportunity to re-position myself, to step outside of routine and practice that had been established to think differently and enable myself to see from new perspectives. I have emerged on the other side of the Lab with not only with a new approach to Canyon’s planning, but also for my own life and work. I will continue to collaborate with Canyon board and staff in a to be determined capacity.

The past 3 years at Canyon have been transformative for me in many ways. I am proud of the establishment and continuation of Canyon Cinema Salons that have continued to be magical events, partnering with Fandor and Kadist Art Foundation to realize the Canyon Cinema Pop-Up, widening access to Canyon titles via Fandor for individual access, Kanopy for educational access (available this fall) and raising $50,000 from the George Lucas Family Foundation. I feel that I have been able to scratch the surface of giving back to an organization that illuminated a path for me so many years ago. It was in a dark classroom that I first saw the Canyon Cinema logo blaze onto the screen: I had been forever changed. I know that this experience is not a singular one, I’ve seen it with my own students since then. Canyon has changed lives – and it certainly has changed mine. So thank you teachers, programmers, tireless advocates of film form, museums, theaters, microcinemas, film arts organizations, print traffic slingers, lovers of this work, makers of this work. Thank you film – you have shown me there is a way to communicate, explore and express that is so uniquely different and special. From a silent flicker to a raging scream and everything in between film has in many ways given me life. They say it takes a village and my time and work at Canyon has proven this time and time again. I am forever connected to this organization and to all of you. I look forward to the many ways in which our paths will continue to cross.

For the love of film,


Denah A. Johnston