About Gail Silva - Biography

Bio | Media Profile

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”

The next?

Who knows, it may be yours.

For more information: Media Profile


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Gail can help make your vision a reality

Join the ranks of independent producers and projects funded with Gail’s help...
Lourdes Portillo
Al Mas Allas | Las Madres: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo | The Devil Never Sleeps | Senorita Extraviada
Arthur Dong
Coming Out Under Fire | Licensed to Kill | Forbidden City, U.S.A.
Lynn Hershman Leeson
Changing Worlds | Strange Culture
Roko & Adrian Belic
Ghengis Blues
Zach Niles and Banker White
The Refugee Allstars
William Farley
Citizen | Of Men and Angels | Arianna's Journey
Jay Rosenblatt
Phantom Limb | Human Remains | I Used to Be a Filmmaker | The Smell of Burning Ants
Betsy Bayha
Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott
Beth Pielert
Out of the Poison Tree
Rick Tejada-Flores
The Fight in the Fields | Race is the Place | The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It | Low 'n Slow
Andrea Torrice
Rising Waters | The New Metropolis | Peril or Pleasure | Forsaken Cries: the Story of Rwanda
Sam Green
The Weather Underground
Dawn Valedez & Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
Going On 13
Denise Zmekhol
Children of the Amazon
Tom Miller
One Bad Cat
Dominic Howes & Joel Weber
The Listening Project
Kimberly Reed
Prodigal Sons
Scott Crocker