Arts Desk

Cash Shortage May Stamp Out Filmfest D.C.

Filmfest D.C. Director Tony Gittens says the cash-strapped film festival may be forced to call it quits after this year, the Washington Post reports. The annual citywide international film event is broke.

Gittens tells Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday that a punishing combination of dwindling funding and rising expenses has driven the film festival into the red. Downsizing at the University of District of Columbia, which sponsors the festival, slashed the fest's deputy director position, and a disappointing grant from the District's Commission on the Arts and Humanities (which Gittens used to lead) dealt a mighty blow, Hornaday reports. The rising costs of transporting and housing filmmakers and renting theaters certainly didn't help. Gittens tells Washington City Paper that with all of these factors in play, "we don't feel very encouraged" to continue the festival.

Filmfest D.C.'s 2014 budget is running short by $200,000 to $250,000, Gittens tells the Post, and he's looking for more funding opportunities high and low.

The 27th edition of Filmfest D.C., which Washington City Paper recently featured on its cover, continues until April 21.

Update, 4:19 p.m.: Tony Gittens has released a statement on the matter. At the end, he calls on Mayor Vince Gray to help. Here's an excerpt. Read the complete statement below.

Update, 6:50 p.m.: The communications company that represents Filmfest D.C. sent me an apparently out-of-date version of Gittens' statement. The new version omits Gittens' direct plea to Mayor Gray for assistance and redirects the plea toward unspecified "city officials." The company has asked us to change this blog post to reflect the wording in the most recent statement. Instead, I'll just post the new statement, too, and leave the old one up. Read them both after the jump.

"In recent years, we have drawn upon our meager cash reserves and trimmed our budget to the bone in order to present what has become both a work of passion for the staff and a highly anticipated annual cultural event for so many. However, costs for essential services continue to climb while the current challenging financial environment has diminished our capacity to raise enough funding to go forward. We did not receive the funding level we expected from the District government, and the University of the District of Columbia, the festival's primary sponsor, has been forced to curtail its support. Both of these actions were recent and unexpected. Many friends and foundations have remained supportive and we are very appreciative. However, it is simply not enough."

Old statement:


New statement:


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  • Anon

    While I support all arts activities, FilmfestDC was a boondoggle from the beginning, receiving grants and line-item budget money up to $250K from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities when Tony Gittens was in charge of BOTH the agency and the film festival.

    Their budget is excessive for the number of people actually attending the event. The writing has been on the wall for many events -- scale down in a poor economy or re-engineer your mission -- and those who don't are doomed to fail.

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