WFF fears funding reduction will jeopardize Rainbow Theatre upgrades 

Organization questions FE&A funding process for 2013

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE / JOERNROHDE.COM - star power Funding from the municipality allowed the Whistler Film Festival to bring big name actors like Rashida Jones to the event in 2012.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde / joernrohde.com
  • star power Funding from the municipality allowed the Whistler Film Festival to bring big name actors like Rashida Jones to the event in 2012.

Whistler Film Festival founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw is looking for answers after learning last week that the festival will receive 28 per cent less funding from the municipality compared to last year.

"We're very grateful for the FE&A (Festival Events and Animation) funding augmentation for 2013," she says. "We're disappointed and astonished in the 28 per cent variance and we seem to be the group to receive the largest variance."

The municipality revealed how it will divvy up the $2.8 million fund — allocated for local events to expand their existing programming — for the coming year last Tuesday. The film festival will get $90,000, down from $125,000 in 2012. Hardy Mishaw says that funding was what allowed the festival to bring in award season films along with big name actors like Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) as well as the Ten Screenwriters to Watch event, which featured a writer for the Oscar-nominated Argo.

"We understand, obviously, that there's a lot of demands on the funding and we've requested rationale from the committee in regards to this decision," she adds. "Basically, it's unclear what the rationale is and really what the expectation is for us to build on the tremendous success that we achieved in 2012 — which is a 52 per cent increase in media coverage, 20 per cent increase in attendance, etc. — (and) achieve the same results with 28 per cent less funding."

They're also concerned about making up the gap in funding on top of trying to raise money for their Rainbow Theatre renovation project, which they hope to have completed in time for this year's December festival. "Our hope is that the committee and council will reconsider the decision so we can continue to build on our 12 years and the success of 2012 and work towards our vision of being one of the top film festivals in the world," she says.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says while council's decision to accept recommendations by the FE&A Oversight Committee is final; it won't affect funding decisions for coming years. "When we delegate to them the authority to make recommendations to us, we're going to be hard pressed to revisit their rationale," she says.

The committee takes into consideration the event's economic impact, whether it aligns with the resort's brand and if it attracts media coverage, among other factors. "There is a limited amount of funds available and there were many applications for them," Wilhelm-Morden adds. "There has been a reduction in the amount of money being given to other festivals; for example Crankworx and Wanderlust."

In total, nine festivals — including the WFF — received $922,000 augmentation funding to enhance their events, including Ironman ($250,000), Tough Mudder ($112,000), World Ski and Snowboard Festival ($135,000), Crankworx ($80,000), Wanderlust ($90,000), GranFondo ($75,000), Cornucopia ($75,000) and the Children's Art Festival ($45,000). The municipality also doled out $84,000 to three events as part of test and development to the Spirit Within First Nations Festival ($35,000), Longboard Festival ($19,000) and Readers and Writers Festival ($30,000).

Stella Harvey, founder of the Readers and Writers Festival, revealed this week that they will use the funding to bring some star power to the October event. They might not have a name confirmed for several more months, but they're thinking big, tossing around names like Ian McEwan and Ann Patchett, she says.

"From the letter I received, the component that was approved was a brunch on the Sunday of the festival where we would have a high-profile author that would perhaps be interviewed over lunch, then people would have the opportunity to talk to the person," Harvey says. "Having it on Sunday, the idea is it will encourage people to come up early and stay."

The festival is eight months away, but organizers have chosen dates and pinned down an award-winning author, with more to be confirmed soon. The weekend event will run from Oct. 18–20 (though Harvey is crossing her fingers that they will be able to add events on Oct. 17) and feature Canadian novelist Patrick deWitt, whose book The Sisters Brothers was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He also won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General's Award for English language fiction that year.

While the FE&A funding is only designated for the brunch event, Harvey says it will give the overall festival a boost. "Last year it was 70 (per cent attendance from outside of the Sea to Sky corridor) and 30 (per cent local)," she says. "Certainly we want the community supporting it because they have for so many years, but for its longevity, for it to survive it has to be more than just that. I think the rock star name only adds to what we've been doing in terms of bringing in up-and-coming writers, (who) I really like to support as well."

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