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Something Wilde

Hand-drawn by a fellow projectionist, this drawing was created to represent the late, great projectionist and teacher Peter Wilde, whose legacy lives on through the AAFF award given annually in Peter's name.

“In my longish life, I have known only one genius: Peter Wilde. I shall never forget him or his influence on me, my students, and all the film community of Ann Arbor.”

—Professor Hubert Cohen, University of Michigan Department of Film, Television, and Media

(formerly Screen Arts and Cultures) in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA)

A Word from Our Executive Director

Every year for the past quarter of a century, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has granted the Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film to the film which displays the most pioneering, cutting-edge technical innovations.

Peter Wilde was a longtime projectionist for the AAFF and a master of special effects. The award in his name honors his creativity and pursuit of new techniques. For many years, the award has flourished through the loyal support of Peter's sister, Susan Warner, and her husband, Jim Warner.

Three years ago, the Ann Arbor Film Festival set its sights on permanently endowing the Peter Wilde Award to ensure that it could sustain and honor Peter’s memory in perpetuity. Thanks to the generous support of many people and organizations, the portion of the AAFF endowment that supports this award is now fully funded.

Many who contributed knew Peter personally and were influenced by his work and his teaching. Among them are some former AAFF staff members, as well as projectionists trained by Peter who went on to work at the Michigan Theater and the University of Michigan. Still other gifts came in loving memory of Peter and Susan’s late brother, Alan C. Wilde. Through the endowment, and thanks to the leadership of Susan and Jim Warner, everyone involved has made it possible for the festival to continue to recognize innovative filmmaking in Peter Wilde’s name every year from now on.

“Peter was a great man,” said Anne Moray, a senior audio-visual technician in LSA’s Instructional Support Services at the University of Michigan. “He had so much confidence in our abilities to be technicians that we believed it, too. He was an inspiration to us all.... He gave so much of himself. He was timeless, he was brilliant, and he will be much remembered.”

The festival is grateful to the Ann Arbor Area Community Fund and its (Helmut) Stern Legacy Challenge, which provided a match for donations to area nonprofits such as the AAFF. Special thanks, too, to Bill Davis, whose recent gift to the AAFF endowment fund leveraged the Stern Legacy Challenge, allowing the festival to accomplish its goal of fully endowing the Peter Wilde Award. And our deep and abiding appreciation and thanks go out to Susan and Jim Warner for creating and sustaining an award that shapes the future of film art in ways that keep Peter’s influence and legacy alive.

The Wilde Award is one of 22 awards the festival presents each year to recognize outstanding films. It’s also the first to be fully endowed. Another festival award that is nearing its goal of full endowment, thanks to donor support, is the Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film. In a more nascent stage is the George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award, which recognizes the work each year that best captures the bold and iconoclastic spirit of the festival's founder.

To learn more about AAFF awards, including which filmmakers were recognized at the 56th festival in March, check out this post. And if you'd like to make a gift and be part of the movement to help the AAFF live out its mission—to support bold, visionary filmmakers, advance the art form of film and new media, and engage communities with remarkable cinematic experiences—please visit the giving page.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival thanks the many supporters who made the Peter Wilde Award endowment possible, including Bernard Coakley, Constance Crump and Jay Simrod, Bill Davis, IATSE Local 395, the LaBour Foundation for Non-Institutional Living, John Nelson and Deb Gaydos, Glenda Pittman, Woody Sempliner, Kevin Smith, Susan and Jim Warner, and Robert Ziebell and Elizabeth Ward.

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