Doug Jones, an independent film programmer with almost three decades of experience in film exhibition, contributed to the development of film culture across the U.S., and a former contributor to IndieWire, died November 2.
The news was announced on Instagram by Vidiots, the Los Angeles non-profit video store and cinema where Jones had worked as a buyer and programmer since May. On November 3, the video store announced that its screenings would be canceled through November 5, due to losing “a dear member” of its team. On November 4, it paid tribute directly to Jones.
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“It breaks our heart to share that we have lost the great and wonderful Doug Jones, a beloved and indispensable member of the Vidiots family and a cornerstone of the global film programming community,” reads that statement posted on Vidiots’ Instagram account. “Doug is forever loved by his beautiful son and family, and an enormous network of devoted friends and colleagues. We will soon share ways Vidiots will celebrate Doug and his unparalleled contributions to the film community. For now, Team Vidiots is taking time and space for healing and private grieving.”
A veteran of the independent film scene who worked as a programmer for several major festivals, Jones is best known for his 12-year stint as Associate Director of Programming for the now-defunct Los Angeles Film Festival, a position he held from 2002 to 2014. He programmed the Film Independent-operated festival’s annual slate including the narrative feature, documentaries, short film, and archival sections.
Four years after the festival ceased operations, he relocated to Williamstown, Massachusetts with his family, and served as Executive Director of the historic Images Cinema. In 2022, he began working as a freelance film programmer for several festivals, including the Philadelphia Film Festival and SXSW Film. Starting in September 2022, he also served as the Artistic Director of the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, which specializes in horror cinema.
A low-key figure known for showcasing his bolder qualities at karaoke nights with his fellow film lovers, Jones’ passing inspired an outpouring of grief and affection from his friends and colleagues including producers Mynette Louie, Marie Therese Gurgis, and Diana Williams; Dallas Film Festival head James Faust; film critic Alonso Duralde; consultant Brian Newman and publicist David Magdael, among many others.
“Doug’s passing this week has wounded so many of us,” wrote IndieWire founder Eugene Hernandez, now director of the Sundance Film Festival, on Facebook November 4.
At a loss for words, I was just going to post this photo today and leave it at that. But I keep seeing Doug’s soft smile and reflecting on his quiet nature, his sense of humor and strength. Doug had a sharp film brain, was a master of karaoke, a welcome friend at festivals, and a genuinely thoughtful, witty guy.
“If you hadn’t gone to work in the film industry, what would you have done?” a journalist asked Doug a few years ago.
“Well, when I was a little kid I wanted to be a superhero. Then I wanted to be a country-and-western singer,” he responded, “Honestly, that’s one of those questions that I don’t have a good answer for. I don’t know what I would have done. From my first job, and even before that, it was always film. I was a film kid as a little kid, then I grew up to be a film guy.”
Rest peacefully, Doug.
– Eugene Hernandez
Eric Kohn, IndieWire’s former VP content strategy who now leads development at Harmony Korine’s Edglrd, remembered Jones as one of the site’s early bloggers who posted festival dispatches. “Looking back on these reports in light of his tragic passing this past week, I realize that you learn a lot about Doug as an engaged, knowledgeable cinephile who brought humility and kindness to the work at hand,” Kohn wrote on Facebook. “He knew what he was talking about without an iota of intimidation. In retrospect, it’s clear that the attributes in his writing carried over to his warm personality and reflected why he was such a welcoming figure for this community. That’s a legacy pivotal to the future of film culture.”
Matt Dentler, who now works in Original Films at Apple and is a former head of SXSW Film, also wrote on Facebook: “Beyond devastated to hear the news about Doug Jones and his unexpected passing. Doug was not only a major figure in the landscape of film festivals for the last 20 years, he was one of the nicest and most genuine people you’d ever encounter at screenings, parties and panels. I can’t believe it’s true.”
Producer and early IndieWire journalist John Bernstein, who knew Jones for a quarter century, posted on Instagram: “I add this to the chorus of voices who knew Doug as a smart, funny, lovely human being who we will absolutely miss. My love goes out to all his friends and family (and especially his son, Wylie).”
Jones earned his Bachelor of Arts in Film, Cinema, and Media Studies from Metro State University in Minnesota. He began his professional career in 1995 as program director for the now-defunct Oak Street Theater in Minneapolis. Prior to joining the Los Angeles Film Festival, Jones worked as a programmer for the Mill Valley Film Festival and the San Francisco Film Society. Aside from his career as a programmer, Jones also worked as a freelance writer for film and culture publications. Outlets he has contributed to beyond IndieWire (read his archive of work for us here), as well as Film Comment, Berkshire Eagle, Twitch.com, FilmIndependent.org, Parlour Pictures, and Shock Magazine.
Jones is survived by a son.
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