RIFF introduces new executive board members, structural changes

March 23, 2021–10:42 a.m.


The Rome International Film Festival (RIFF) is pleased to introduce its newly elected and returning executive Board of Directors members who are dedicated to expanding the festival and bringing economic growth to Rome.

The 18th annual Rome International Film Festival is scheduled to run Nov. 11-14 in downtown Rome. After having to host a mostly virtual festival last year due to COVID-19, organizers are moving forward with an in-person festival for 2021.

“RIFF persevered through 2020, adapting to the circumstances, and we managed to have a quality in-person and virtual event, which included introducing a K-12 student film competition that was a smashin’ hit at engaging with local students,” said Seth Ingram, RIFF’s executive director, and creative director. “Our Board of Directors is committed to expounding upon this by engaging with more northwest Georgia K-12 schools, notably College and Career Academies.”

Ingram is also a writer and filmmaker and the division chair of Film Studies at Georgia Highlands College. He is continuing as RIFF’s executive director and creative director for a sixth season.

The RIFF Board of Directors selected Mark Van Leuven as the new president. He is the director of Risk Management at OTR Wheel Engineering International and is the executive director of the Rome Winter Wonderland Carnival and Ice Festival. Van Leuven is a veteran actor, director, and producer of both stage and radio productions.

Professional audio engineer Jim Kelly, of Ready or Not Entertainment Services, was selected as RIFF’s vice-president. Kelly served as president of the Rome High School Band Boosters Association, board member of the Coosa Valley Fair Association, and currently serves as the Coosa District’s vice-chair of the Boy Scouts of America, Northwest Georgia Council.

Anna Garner returns as the Treasure for RIFF. She was employed with CCH Tax Services, 2010-13, and became their Financial Systems Analyst. Since 2013, Garner has worked for Northwest Georgia Paving, Inc. in Calhoun as their Job Cost Accountant. This is her fourth year serving on the Board of Directors for RIFF.

Melissa Rutledge, an award-winning designer and a recipient of the City of Rome’s Super Star of Service Award, is currently serving her second year as RIFF’s Secretary. Rutledge also serves on the boards at Makervillage and Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful. She is the founder of Rome Knitterati, Free Art Friday – Rome Ga., and the Rome Hiking Club.

Community leaders, educators, and business and industry professionals comprise RIFF’s Board of Directors. Additional board members include Jeb Arp, Brandon Bristol, Emily Earp, Shay-Bentley Griffin, Lauren Jones Hillman, AJ Jackson, Gary Jones, Wayne Jones, John Kenyon, Tomas Kislat, Chuck Morris, and Rick Stevenson.

“The RIFF board of directors and staff, for the 2021 festival season, involves an outstanding caravan of talented and motivated individuals,” said Van Leuven. “Each of us are eagerly committed toward building a brighter post-pandemic future for our community, through aesthetic, educational, and economic development, via the medium of the burgeoning film industry in Georgia. It is an honor to work with this exceptional team of creative souls, all of whom are passionate in this purpose. Pure quality.”

The RIFF staff consists of Katherine Dudley, education director; April Ingram, programming coordinator; and Ingram.

“We look forward to thriving as an internationally respected festival attracting innovative filmmakers from around the world to exhibit their work in Rome,” said Ingram.

About the Rome International Film Festival

RIFF welcomes films and filmmakers from around the globe to share the art of independent film with regional audiences, to entertain and enlighten festival attendees, to provide filmmakers the opportunity for professional networking and development, and to encourage cultural tourism and film industry development in Rome, Ga. and the surrounding area. Founded in 2003, RIFF initially operated under the auspices of Rome Area Council of the Arts, becoming a separate 501 C(3) in 2006. Today, RIFF is northwest Georgia’s premiere film festival event.

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