imagineNATIVE Names New Executive Director as Jason Ryle Steps Down

Jason Ryle centre and Naomi Johnson right.
Jason Ryle (centre) and Naomi Johnson (right)

TORONTO, 28 May 2020 – imagineNATIVE, the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous-made screen content, is announcing the appointment of Naomi Johnson as Executive Director, following the planned exit of long-time leader Jason Ryle, effective June 1, 2020.

Naomi Johnson joined imagineNATIVE as Associate Director in June 2019, working under the guidance of Jason Ryle for the past year in anticipation of this leadership transition. Prior to joining imagineNATIVE, Naomi was the Artistic Director and Co-Executive Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. She will lead a team that includes Artistic Director Niki Little as the organisation heads into its third decade.

“I am immensely grateful for all those who have been involved with guiding me through this role as I take on the responsibilities of Executive Director,” says Naomi Johnson. “It has been an incredible learning experience and I’m forever grateful to the imagineNATIVE board, staff and especially Jason Ryle, in which I could not have hoped for a more generous and supportive mentor.”

“Leaving imagineNATIVE was always going to be a bittersweet affair,” says Jason Ryle. “It’s an organisation that I love and respect dearly that serves a community that has given me so much inspiration, pride, and purpose. I’ve long felt that a big part of imagineNATIVE’s consistent success has been because it has had the right leader at the right time. In looking ahead, my hope and expectation is that the new leadership will do bigger and better things than I could imagine. I’m so excited to see where Naomi will lead imagineNATIVE and I know the organisation and our mandate is in good, capable hands.” 

Jason joined imagineNATIVE as a Programmer in 2002 and became Chair of its Board of Directors in 2004 before being appointed Executive Director in July 2010. Under Jason’s decade-long leadership, imagineNATIVE underwent a tremendous period of growth and further advanced its mandate to support Indigenous filmmakers and media artists in Canada and internationally. During this time, the annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival grew substantially to become the world’s largest showcase of Indigenous-made screen content and has become a key artistic, public, and industry festival. Under his guidance, the organization developed key partnerships with national and international funders, broadcasters, institutions, and festivals that provided new and expanded professional development and exhibition opportunities for Indigenous screen content creators. He also implemented and oversaw the development of the On-Screen Protocols & Pathways framework which has made a significant impact on the Canadian film and television industries. 

Jason leaves imagineNATIVE to pursue new opportunities, including work as a producer. “I am enormously proud of the exponential growth and impact of imagineNATIVE under Jason’s leadership,” says Kona Goulet, Chair of the Board. “I know I speak for the board and staff in expressing our deep gratitude for the visionary and creative direction Jason provided in which the Festival’s audience quadrupled and budget tripled. In support of this leadership transition, we have worked closely with Naomi over the last year and she has quickly built trust, shown effective leadership, and demonstrated strong vision. We have full confidence for continued excellence in presenting and supporting Indigenous film and media arts under her leadership and look forward to bringing imagineNATIVE’s 21st Festival to our audiences in 2020.” 

imagineNATIVE was founded in 1999 and since 2000 has presented the annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto. It is the largest organisation of its kind in the world with a mandate to support Indigenous screen content creators. In addition to its Festival, imagineNATIVE also presents an annual Tour and numerous presentations nationally and internationally. Its Institute department – in partnership with Netflix – provides year-round and Festival-based professional development opportunities and industry events.

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We at imagineNATIVE acknowledge that this land located on present-day Tkaronto (Toronto) is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit.

We acknowledge the Dish With One Spoon covenant, a treaty whose spirit is one based in collective stewardship and reciprocity. We take the spirit of this covenant to the core of our operations as we bring artists and audiences from many nations across the globe together through our various initiatives and activities.

Please take a moment to think of the land you currently reside upon, wherever you may be, and  acknowledge those who went before and those yet to come.

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