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This Is Uncomfortable

So you want to fund a film festival

Adriene Hill Jun 18, 2015
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Have you noticed lately how every city seems to have its own film festival — And we’re not talking Sundance or Cannes. Most are small affairs, unencumbered by Hollywood royalty and studio execs writing big checks for small movies.  

How do all those festivals stay in business?

Putting on a film festival takes money. And funding is as all-over-the-map as the film festivals themselves.

In some places, like Toronto, the city pitches in $1 million a year.

“Towns and cities are highly aware of the potential tourism dollars it might bring,” says Tamara Falicov, an associate professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas.

A lot of smaller festivals don’t have that kind of backing. “I recently read a survey that many, many festivals are barely surviving and they depend a lot on filmmaker submission fees,” says Falicov.

Those fees range from $10 to $100-plus, and they are becoming more and more contentious.

Josh Welsh, the president of Film Independent, which puts on the LA Film Festival, says the non-profit spends a lot of the year raising money to put on the fest. It gets cash from philanthropic donors. It sell tickets. And, his organization, like many festivals, depends on corporate sponsorship, “that’s a very significant piece of it.” 

Companies see the film festival goers as an audience they want for themselves. 

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