Marcie Goodman, Executive Director, Cleveland International Film Festival


There are three things Marcie Goodman absolutely adores: her Weimaraner dogs Sam (three) and Gilda (one); her five staff members and board of trustees; and the movies. (Not necessarily in that order.)

As executive director of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), Goodman says, she has it all. “I can’t believe I get to spend almost every day of the year with my five favorite people in the world. We just have fun every day, and we know we are fortunate to have this once-in-a-lifetime configuration at work.”

The benefit to the rest of northeastern Ohio and beyond is that, year after year, the group of hard-working, passionate film lovers Marcie Goodman leads just happens to produce one of the finest film festivals in the world. In 2011 CIFF drew 78,000 patrons—surpassing the previous year’s total attendance record by more than 6,000 people—to celebrate its 35th festival by viewing more than 150 feature films and 130 short films from more than 60 nations.

Under Goodman’s guidance (since 2003), the festival has increased attendance by 122 percent, film submissions by 101 percent, memberships by 186 percent, and budget by 103 percent. But the focus of CIFF, she says, is always on better, not bigger (though better has continued to lead to bigger) and on creating a festival that reflects the community. For example, for this year’s festival, CIFF enlisted 105 community partners. “We believe this festival belongs to Cleveland and our region, so we do everything we can to involve the community,” she explains.

Although she doesn’t claim to be a film aficionado because she has never studied thye art form formally, she loves movies so much that she rarely watches DVDs. “I am a purist,” Goodman declares. “I like to watch movies on a big screen in a dark theater with really good popcorn.” And Sam and Gilda panting by her feet.

She attended the film festival long before working there, which in hindsight, she says, was probably a good thing. “The great irony of my job is that I don’t get to see any films during the festival,” she laments, “because I have no time!

What she does get to see are the visiting filmmakers who are completely energized by the interactive engagement of Cleveland audiences. “They tell us they’ve never felt more welcomed or more embraced, because Clevelanders really appreciate the art form and the artists. So that’s why we bring our audiences the best films we can find in the world.”

Since graduating from Case Western Reserve University, she has spent her entire career in non-profit organizations, as Goodman enjoys pointing out, “that change their names.” From 1977 until 1987, she worked at the Federation for Community Planning, now The Center for Community Solutions. In 1987, she migrated from non­profit social services to nonprofit arts by becoming associate director at the Cleveland International Film Festival, which briefly became the Cleveland Film Society in 1991 before switching to CIFF. In 1994, she took the development director position at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, now MOCA Cleveland, but returned to CIFF in 1998, first as managing director and since 2001 as executive director.

Goodman is also a fellow of the executive program for nonprofit leaders at the Stanford University School of Business. In 2008, she was presented with the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio, in the category of arts administration. A year later, CIFF became the first arts organization to receive the Mandel Center’s Organization Innovation Award.

No matter what the recognition, Goodman gives all of the credit to her festival “family.” “That’s just the way we work,” she says of her tightknit crew and cast of, well, dozens. Cecil B. DeMille would have understood.

Cleveland Arts Prize
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