Economy makes sponsors for International Film Festival harder to find - despite 20-year history
By Sherri C. Ranta
Finding corporate sponsors for the 20th anniversary of the Miami International Film Festival is proving difficult in the country's tough economy, organizers say.
Major sponsors such as FedEx and BMW are back this year, but finding new ones is proving to be a "real challenge," said festival director Nicole Guillemet, former co-director of the Sundance Film Festival. She joined the Miami organization in July.
"Philanthropic money from corporations doesn't really exist anymore," she said. "For the festival or any non-profit, trying to find corporate money in a time of budget cuts is proving to be a real challenge."
The festival will return Feb. 21 through March 2, screening about 60 dramas, comedies, musicals and documentaries at Gusman Center for Performing Arts in downtown Miami, Regal Cinemas on South Beach and Sunrise Cinemas Intracoastal in North Miami.
The festival's $1 million budget is financed almost equally by revenue from ticket sales, sponsors and government grants.
The film festival's parent organization, Florida International University, contributes about $150,000. Other sponsors for the 2003 festival include Wachovia Bank, Kodak, HSBC, Movado and SKYY Vodka.
Organizers, Ms. Guillemet said, are trying to find new ways to attract sponsors and raise interest. The sponsors' return on investment, she said, is in visibility among art patrons and Miami-Dade County's growing international reputation as an area that supports the arts.
Switzerland-based Art Basel, a world-renowned show, in early December brought thousands of people to Miami Beach. The county's choice as the first US location for Art Basel, Ms. Guillemet said, is evidence it is being recognized as an arts community and one with patronage.
"We hope that business will support the arts at that level for an area of this size," she said. "No one can do it alone. It has to be a collaboration between business and artists."
As organizers continue plans for the 2003 film festival and look for new sponsors, they are also finding ways to trim costs to contend with a $220,000 budget deficit the festival experienced last year. Plans are to eliminate the debt during the next several years with revenue from future festivals, Ms. Guillemet said.
This year's budget, she said, is lean. Decisions were made to cut back in some areas and fund others that make a film festival a unique experience, such as appearances by directors and actors.
'This is what makes a festival experience what it should be," Ms. Guillemet said.
Returning this year are the festival's unique open-air screenings on South Beach. Costs were cut when organizers moved the upcoming 2003 screenings to Nikki Beach Club on Miami Beach. The club already has an outdoor screen, she said.
The 2003 Beach screenings will feature the 25th anniversary edition of "Grease."
Organizers are also returning to a traditional method of raising funds by selling memberships to a patron's society called the FIU Cinema Society. As members, patrons are allowed to purchase tickets earlier than the general public and attend certain members-only events throughout the festival.
"Because (the membership sale) was canceled last year, we're rebuilding the trust of people and trying to bring back our loyal members. It's coming nicely," Ms. Guillemet said.
Opening night festivities Feb. 21 will include a gala at Vizcaya. The Spanish comedy "The Other Side of the Bed" will make its US premiere that night at the Gusman Center.
The following night, actor/director John Malkovich's directorial debut, "The Dancer Upstairs," will screen at the Gusman Center. The film follows a dedicated police detective in a South American country whose mission it is to hunt down a revolutionary guerrilla leader.