Film Fest to get cash injection from RMOW 

$50,000 in matched funding each year for three years

The Whistler Film Festival Society, with its lofty vision of becoming the "Sundance of the North," has just been given a sizable financial boost from the municipality.

On Monday night council promised to match up to $50,000 in funds each year for the next three years, for a total of up to $150,000.

"We’re just thrilled," said festival co-founder/director Shauna Hardy Mishaw, after the council presentation.

"It speaks volumes to helping us implement our vision."

But she quickly added, this $50,000 is not a municipal handout. It’s a promise to match funds from provincial and federal agencies.

"We still have a lot of work to do," she said.

Already the organization has secured almost $20,000 in provincial funding this year. They will need to get another $30,000 in order to access the maximum support from the RMOW. But the grant applications are already out at provincial and federal agencies and Hardy Mishaw is convinced they will be able to maximize the funding.

"I do feel very confident that over the next three years we’ll be able to secure it," said Hardy Mishaw.

In her request for the money on Monday night, Hardy Mishaw explained the need to have commitment at the local government level in order to get funding from higher levels of government.

"Without a demonstration of municipal support it’s very, very hard for us to attract those funding agencies to our program," she said.

"It (the municipal commitment) speaks to those other levels of government."

Hardy Mishaw also explained the importance of securing a multi-year contract for municipal funding when questioned by council. She said the non-profit society in the process of applying for funding for 2006. To have the three-year municipal commitment of $50,000 per year will go a long way in securing more funding partners for future years.

"This is going to be an incredible help to what we’re doing," she said.

In her pitch to council, Hardy Mishaw talked about the economic engine of other North American film festivals.

The Sundance Film Festival generates $40 million in 10 days for Park City. The Toronto Film Festival generates $115 million for Toronto in 10 days.

"Imagine what the Whistler Film Festival can do for Whistler," said Hardy Mishaw.

Every year since 2000 the festival society has put on the annual Whistler Film Festival. It has not asked for municipal funding over those five years. In that time Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb has provided invaluable support through room nights, marketing and lift passes.

But the film festival is growing in popularity and size every year. The event runs during the first week of December, drawing actors, directors, aspiring moviemakers and of course, movie lovers.

The non-profit organization also produces a year-round program called Reel Alternatives, a monthly independent film series that offers less than mainstream movies. The society also offers youth film programs and script writing workshops.

Its goals are to not only enrich community life in Whistler but to draw guests at the beginning of the season, which ultimately raises Whistler’s profile in the filmmaking world and generates money in the resort.

Hardy Mishaw, who sat on the Arts, Culture and Heritage task force developing Whistler’s vision for its Whistler 2020 document, said council’s commitment on Monday night shows a dedication to the long-term vision and goals for the resort community and the need to diversify the economy.

"I think it is a really strong indication that the mayor and council are committed to the Whistler 2020 vision," she said.

The $50,000 funding is approximately 10 per cent of the organization’s annual budget. The matched funds from the municipality will come out of the Event Support operating budget, which is funded by the hotel tax.

Ultimately Hardy Mishaw said they are hoping to secure between $100,000 and $150,000 in public funding for the society each year.

This year the fifth annual film festival will run in Whistler from Dec. 1 to 4.

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