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Festival Business

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Festival Business

At Filmmaking for the Poor (via Green Cine Daily), blog proprietor Sujewa Ekanayake poses two provocative questions: Should film festivals share some of their ticket sales for a given screening with the maker(s) of the film being screened? And what are the festivals that currently give film makers a share of the ticket sales?

Further down in the comments thread, he explains the reasoning behind his questions: “The goal is not to put fests out of business but to try to get filmmakers some cash (only fair, ’cause: no indie films = no indie film fests) from screenings of their work.”

Sounds great in theory, but unfortunately most festivals aren’t as well-funded as, say, the one pictured below. And even the fests that appear well-fattened may be scrambling behind-the-scenes. There’s a wide spectrum of economic health. Some festivals I’ve attended as either filmmaker or critic (not too many, all told; I’m a bit of a homebody) looked to have a lot of crucial expenses taken care of. But that’s just my guess, based on a tourist’s appraisal of screening venues, affiliated hotels and event locations, and other outward signs, such as transportation to and from events. (I.e., are guests shuttled about by professional taxis—as was the case when I attended the 2005 Independent Film Festival Boston—or by volunteers schlepping their own vehicles?)

Fact is, a lot of small and medium-sized festivals are shoestring operations—the festival equivalent of no-budget indie movies. Except for the uppermost ranks of festival staff, who might get a salary or perhaps some kind of weekly or monthly stipend, most of the people working there are likely to be volunteers—students, folks from the surrounding community and so forth. Which isn’t to say that no festival can afford to give filmmakers a cut of ticket sales, just that most probably can’t, and in any case, a particular festival’s true position within that spectrum may not be discernible to outsiders.

David Wilson, codirector of the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Mo., wrote to point out that screening fees add to the cost of running a festival. (Yet he also revealed this tidbit: “Almost no fest will admit to paying screening fees for some films. But almost all do.”) Filmmaker Doug Block (of 51 Birch Street) concurred that many festivals will pay screening fees if asked, and will also cover the cost of tape dubs. A former festival organizer tells Sujewa, “European fests pay rentals (to filmmakers), but most of them have state support, which very few US festivals have.”

A good read. Click here for more.