Hot Docs executive director Brett Hendrie to depart in March

Hot Docs president Chris McDonald will temporarily take over Hendrie's responsibilities while the board of directors searches for a new executive director.
February 22, 2021

Brett Hendrie will depart his post as executive director of Hot Docs after eight years at the helm.

Hendrie (pictured) is expected to leave North America’s largest documentary festival once programming for the 2021 virtual edition – set to run from April 29 to May 9 – is finalized in late March. He is departing to take on a new position at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Former executive director and current president Chris McDonald¬†will temporarily assume Hendrie’s responsibilities until a new executive director is appointed. The Hot Docs board of directors will begin a search for Hendrie’s replacement this month.

“It has been an incredible privilege to be a part of this inspiring organization for 20 years, and an honor to advance its mission to champion documentary films and filmmakers,” said Hendrie, in a statement. “I am deeply thankful to the innumerable colleagues, board members and partners with whom I collaborated, and am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Hot Docs’ reach and its capacity to support documentary’s vibrant voices have never been greater, and I’m confident it will take its ambitions to new heights and deepen its impact with audiences, filmmakers and the documentary community.”

Hendrie first joined Hot Docs 20 years ago and was named executive director in 2013. His legacy with the festival includes launching the Canadian Storytellers Project, which offered mentorship and training through the Doc Accelerator lab and Doc Ignite program. He also established the CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund and CrossCurrents International Doc Fund.

The festival reached its record-high audience of 228,000 during his tenure, with the value of filmmaker prizes awarded reaching CDN$305,000. He saw Hot Docs through its pivot to virtual in 2020, becoming one of the first festivals to launch online in the COVID-19 pandemic and securing a partnership with CBC to world premiere select titles as part of Hot Docs at Home.

“On behalf of my co-chair, Robin Mirsky, and the entire board of directors, I want to thank Brett for his immeasurable contributions and leadership over the years, which have led to Hot Docs’ incredible growth and success,” said Lalita Krishna, co-chair of the Hot Docs board of directors. “Brett’s steady hand, thoughtfulness, energy and enthusiasm for our mission will be sorely missed. Speaking as a filmmaker, the opportunities he has spearheaded for the next generation of documentary storytellers have been invaluable and greatly appreciated.”

“It has been a personal career highlight to work alongside Brett for the past two decades,” said McDonald. “Among the many amazing accomplishments he leaves us – more engaged audiences, more support for filmmakers and richer ties to our documentary community – his tireless work to lead us through the uncertainties of this past year may be the most remarkable. He leaves us on a solid foundation and with great optimism and enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead.”

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About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.