After 15 years at the helm, Janet Pierson is stepping down from her position as the director of the SXSW Film Festival.
Pierson will become the director emeritus, with film festival programming director Claudette Godfrey assuming leadership.
During Pierson’s time at the helm, SXSW launched episodic programs, with the fest eventually being renamed the SXSW Film & TV Festival. Under her guidance, the fest has held world premieres for notable hits like HBO’s Girls, 21 Jump Street, Spring Breakers, Trainwreck and A Quiet Place.
More recently, the festival became one of the earliest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, shutting down its 2020 festival shortly ahead of opening day. In 2022, the festival was back to being held in person and screened multiple big studio titles, including A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once and Paramount’s The Lost City.
“Leading SXSW Film (now SXSW Film & TV) starting in 2008 at the age of 50 was a wonderful, and quite unexpected, adventure. It’s been glorious to present so much great work at our unique event, yielding so many transformative experiences for creators and audience alike,” said Pierso. “I’m intensely proud of the work our small and very mighty team has accomplished.” She added: “It’s been a true privilege and I’m filled with gratitude.”
Pierson called Godfrey a “significant collaborator and leader” every step of the way. Godfrey has been with the fest in a variety of capacities for the past 17 years, holding posts as film festival coordinator, shorts programmer, and senior programmer, among others.
Godfrey added: “Janet is an incredible leader and mentor, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to watch and learn from her example. Our bold community of filmmakers, our enthusiastic audiences, and our gifted team that makes it all happen perpetually inspire me. I’m a hype woman at heart, and it’s a great joy in my life to discover and elevate new talent by curating and evolving an event that celebrates film, TV, and creativity. I started from the bottom and the journey has been exceptional — it’s an immense honor to continue to build on the legacy of SXSW Film & TV and take it into the future.”