Whistler Film Festival seeks RMI funds 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE/WPNN.ORG - Film Festival: Variety executive editor speaks with actor/writer Jay Baruchel during the 2011 Whistler Film Festival.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde/wpnn.org
  • Film Festival: Variety executive editor speaks with actor/writer Jay Baruchel during the 2011 Whistler Film Festival.

The Whistler Film Festival Society is seeking increased Resort Municipality Initiative funds through the RMOW.

In a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 21), members of the WFFS requested an increased annual support to $300,000, up from the $270,960 given in 2011, as well as increased funding support for the Rainbow Theatre renovation project.

Part of the 2011's annual contribution included one-time-only emergency funding of $145,960, which the WFFS had asked for after American Express pulled out as presenting sponsor. The money had been rerouted from the $500,000 inRMI funds set aside for Rainbow Theatre construction costs .

The RMOW has set aside $50,000 of RMI funds per year in its five-year financial plan for the festival.

In addition, the RMOW gave another $75,000 through the Festivals Events & Animation (FE&A) program a to help pay for a joint reception with

Variety in Los Angeles — set up to welcome the film industry to Whistler — and also to hire WFF as a contractor rto produce Pixar in the Plaza during the 2011 festival.

The WFFS is asking for between $765,000 and $1.4 million for the theatre upgrades, depending on how much is offered through a Canadian Heritage (PCH) Cultural Spaces grant.

According to Shauna Hardy Mishaw, the festival's executive director, the money will help to further the film festival's offerings in order to generate the anticipated $35 million in media and economic activity by 2020.

Hardy Mishaw says the 2011 festival, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, brought in $18.5 million for B.C. and Whistler. New relationships were forged with China and with Hollywood trade magazine Variety — a considerable feat since the magazine endorses only 30 of the 2,000 film festivals worldwide.

The theatre renovation is critical, says Hardy Mishaw, in order to rise to the occasion that Whistler has been presented with.

"You can't have a world-class festival without a world-class theatre," she says.

"Let's put (James Cameron) in a state-of-the-art 3-D theatre. Oh, no no. Let's put him in the Rainbow. It's kind of embarrassing," she says.

The RMOW applied for a PCH grant in 2010 on behalf of the WFFS, but the application was denied for two reasons: the federal government felt that the RMOW and the province were not offering equal funding to the project — which is why the WFFS is asking for at least a doubling up of the remaining $355,000 allocated for the theatre — and because PCH prefers to offer grants for technical upgrades as opposed to venue upgrades.

As a result, the WFFS will proceed with the project in two phases: the theatre auditorium and control room renovation, which will cost $1.6 million, will be covered by the PCH grants and RMI funds. Phase II will include upgrades to the lobby and entrance, which will cost an estimated $1 million and will not be covered through PCH funding. Director of development Jane Milner says the WFFS anticipates the extra million will come through private funding.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says that WFFS's requests have been given to staff and a decision will be made by the end of March, as they had requested.

"I am very supportive," she says. "I think what the film society does is wonderful, especially what they did in 2011. We have a lot of people asking for money and we have a limited amount, so we'll have to see."

If the funds are forthcoming, Hardy Mishaw says the project could be completed in time for the 2012 festival. With Variety on board as a partner, the hope is that the festival will be used as a platform to showcase films for the run up to the award season.

Currently, the theatre is in use less than 30 days out of the year. The upgrades will boast a state of the art facility where films can be —and, if all goes to plan, will be — shown year-round.

"We're proposing to make this purposeful," she says.


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