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The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film & TV Festival’s long-time director Janet Pierson will now shift to a new emeritus role and will turn over leadership of the festival to her deputy Claudette Godfrey.

Pierson, who has led SXSW Film & TV for the past 15 years, will now become Director Emeritus, which will still allow her to contribute as a programmer for the 2023 festival, and where she will also be honored by SXSW for her contributions to the festival and entertainment space over the years. Godfrey, currently the fest’s programming director, is now the new VP, Director of Film & TV, stepping into Pierson’s shoes.

“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,” Pierson said in a statement. “I’m intensely proud of the work our small and very mighty team has accomplished.”

Pierson continued: “Now, 15 years and 14 events later, it feels right to hand the reins to the new Director, Film & TV, Claudette Godfrey. Claudette and I began working together in 2008 and she has been a significant collaborator and leader every step of the way. I’m excited to remain on the programming team to continue to support and elevate creators in this new capacity as Director Emeritus. It’s been a true privilege and I’m filled with gratitude.”

“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,” Godfrey said. “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.”

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Pierson’s 15th year on the job was 2022’s festival, and in her 45-year career over the whole, she helped launch the festival’s Episodic program and its XR exhibition section, as well as contributed to the strategy of the larger event.

In her own programming, Godfrey has championed short and music video filmmakers such as the Daniels, Janicza Bravo, Trey Shults, Jim Cummings and many more who have since blossomed in their careers. A native of SXSW’s Austin home, she’s been working with the festival for 17 years, starting as a volunteer crew manager in 2006 and becoming Film Festival coordinator in 2009. She became the director of festival programming just this year. In her new role, Godfrey will lead the team and be responsible for the vision, programming and execution of the SXSW Film & TV Festival, as well as the film and TV-focused content within the SXSW Conference.

SXSW 2023 runs from March 10-19.

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