May 31, 2007 -- The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau awarded Richard Herskowitz, director of the Virginia Film Festival, its 2007 Tourism Person of the Year Award in recognition of his artistic vision and leadership in making the Virginia Film Festival a source of community pride, local business and national attention.
The award was presented to Herskowitz at a May 29 grand opening reception and ribbon cutting event for the new downtown Visitor Center.
"This comes as a complete surprise. I must have known something was up because I was supposed to fly to Los Angeles today and I moved it 'til tomorrow," said Herskowitz in remarks to the crowd. "This so energizes me just at the right time moment. We meet with our board in Los Angeles tomorrow to really start the heavy lifting through November 4, the 20th anniversary program. And the theme as you may have heard is Kin Flicks, on family. … Coming to Charlottesville has been just the best move of my life. I can't image a better place to direct a film festival."
Herskowitz, a nationally renowned film programmer and educator, has headed the festival since 1994. Under his leadership the festival has expanded each year, attracting an increasing number of film aficionados to what Herskowitz describes as the "largest four-day class on a single film theme in the country." The 2006 Virginia Film Festival, with the theme "Revelations: Finding God at the Movies,”
boasted a record 32 sold-out events that included premieres, feature films, documentaries and live events and drew a record 14,699 attendees. The figure represents a 12 percent jump from last year’s event. Herskowitz’s unprecedented success can be credited to building a festival that is not just entertainment but an exploration of how movies reflect — and also what they bring to — our culture.
Herskowitz calls on the expertise of top film industry members, from both behind and in front of the camera, as well as University of Virginia professors, other academics and community organization members to lead discussions at individual film screenings that place them in a cultural context. Over the years he has added other educational events that include a student-oriented Behind the Scenes Symposium, the Volvo Adrenaline Film Project, Darden Producers Forum, live performances and art exhibits.
Created in the late 1980s, the Virginia Festival of American Film (renamed the Virginia Film Festival) was endorsed by the state's Department of Economic Development and was adopted by the University of Virginia. The intent was twofold: to simulate economic development by encouraging film production in Virginia and increasing tourism and to meld the creative interests and crafts of the American film industry with the intellectual resources of a nationally ranked university. The Festival has grown into an event of national significance, engaging a large number of University faculty and attracting substantial film industry and public attention.
In 1996, the University made the Film Festival a more integral part of its academic program, moving the Festival under the umbrella of the College of Arts and Sciences, where it has become the centerpiece of a year-round film studies and exhibition program.
The Virginia Film Festival is hosted by the University's Media Studies Department where Herskowitz teaches film courses.
The mission of the Charlottesville Albemarle CVB is to enhance the economic prosperity of the city and county through the promotion, sale and marketing of the area as a destination for meeting and tourism markets.