About Gail Silva - Biography
Gail was the primary force behind Film Arts Foundation for more than 25 years, first as co-director, then executive director and finally president. Now the veteran advocate for indies has become an indie herself, as advisor, curator and mentor to the field.
As the only arts administrator in the country who can milk a cow and bale hay, Gail brings down-to-earth wisdom to her work.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Gail grew up on a ranch and attended a one-room schoolhouse with her sister, writer-editor Sharon Silva. In the ‘60s, the two sisters left behind the family spread for The City with its jazz clubs, beat poets and budding art film movement. For Gail, it was love at first gaze—at the films of Bruce Connor, Chick Strand and the protest films coming out of San Francisco State University. Little did she know then how she would put to work her degree in Urban Sociology and Psychology, ministering to struggling filmmakers!
In 1976, a ragtag band of filmmakers came together to create an independent cinema collective, and Film Arts Foundation was born. Gail came on board in the early years of the organization, and under her leadership, Film Arts developed into the largest regional independent media-service organization in the country, with more than 3,400 members (2002).
During her tenure at Film Arts Foundation, Gail co-established the groundbreaking (1984) Fund for Independent Cinema, the Film Arts Foundation’s grant program. She shepherded hundreds of fiscal sponsored projects from conception to completion. Through her work in organizations like NAMAC, INPUT and National Coalition of Independent Public Television Producers she championed the cause of independent media on the national and international level. She co-created (1996) and then curated (2001-2005) TRUE STORIES, the innovative documentary sneak preview series at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
In 1996, the San Francisco Bay Guardian dubbed her “the doyenne of the Bay Area independent filmmaking community” with their “Local Hero” award. In 2002, her years of dedication to artistic excellence and advocacy were recognized by the presentation of the California Arts Council’s “Directors Award.”
Currently Ms. Silva serves as the President of the Board of California Newsreel, the leading nonprofit distributor of media on the African American experience and African cinema. For the last five years she has represented the interests of independents by serving on the nominating committee of the National Coalition of Independent Public Television Producers (NCIPTP) who select and seat the Board of Directors of the Independent Television Service (ITVS). She has been a panelist for CPB, NEH, NEA, California Arts Council, Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Fellowships and many others.
When Gail is not advising and agitating for independents, she is traveling the world, cultivating her hydrangeas, or trekking to the movies.
The first film that had a profound effect on her? “Bambi”
Who knows, it may be yours.
For more information: Media Profile
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