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The AIFF picks former exec at Harry & David for its top job

The Ashland Independent Film Festival on Wednesday named a former Harry & David executive to its top job. Anne Ashbey Pierotti of Ashland will succeed Tom Olbrich as the festival's new executive director, the AIFF said.

"I am deeply honored to have been selected for this position," Pierotti said. "I'm a huge fan of the festival. I look forward to collaborating with the AIFF's incredible staff, board, volunteers and community supporters to build upon the festival's success and ensure a bright future for independent film in Southern Oregon."

Pierotti served on the film festival's board of directors from 2006 to June of 2011 and was the board's president from 2008 to 2010.

Olbrich resigned recently after nearly eight years in the festival's top job but agreed to stay on to help with a national search for a new leader. He is widely credited with making the AIFF one of the most popular small film festivals on the West Coast.

"It is rare that an applicant for a job at any business at this level has the knowledge and background that Anne does with us," Olbrich said. "Combine that with her professional background and she is a great fit for the film festival."

Pierotti, 47, a New Jersey native, has worked as an on-line marketing executive for e-commerce, community and entertainment-based businesses for more than 15 years. She most recently worked as the vice president of marketing for Ashland-based Blackstone Audio, Inc. Before that she was a vice president of internet marketing for Medford-based gourmet retailer Harry and David.

She said her number one goal is building on the AIFF's success.

"The mission is to reach more people," she said. "So you can expect me to be looking for opportunities to broaden the audience and build the exposure."

Pierotti earned a degree in documentary film production from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She moved to Ashland in 2001 with her husband, Louis and the couple's children, Emma and Leo. She first attended AIFF in 2004, became a volunteer in 2005 and joined the board in 2006.

She is also a moderator for Creative Good, a consulting firm that works with executives to improve the experience of their customers and is on the board of directors of United Way of Jackson County.

"My intent is to make the festival financially stronger," she said. "We're a non-profit arts organization, so we face the same financial challenges others do."

Ed McNulty, president of the AIFF's board, described Pierotti as "intelligent, resourceful and unflappable in the face of large challenges."

The Ashland Independent Film Festival has been praised by filmgoers for the intimate access it affords to filmmakers, many of whom schedule special events and stay after screenings to take questions and talk with audience members. The 11th annual AIFF will be held April 12-16.

Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at varble.bill@gmail.com.