Below is my response to the much talked about Film Threat’s Mark Bell’s blog post regarding this year’s New Mexico International Film Festival.  Film Threat’s site wasn’t accepting new comments so I’ve posted my response here. For my original post click on Film Festival archives here on my blog site and for Mark’s original post click here: http://bit.ly/gqSWCF

Dear Mark,

Thanks for bringing this to all of our attention. I, too, wrote a glowing blog about the New Mexico International Film Festival’s Mission Statement and can assure you that several of my clients submitted their films (primarily shorts). I can also assure you that many were of top-tier fest quality and have played at over 50 other festivals.

Why didn’t they get into New Mexico? I’d love to know.

As someone who has worked for film festivals of every size for 20 years I thought it might be helpful for people to see a breakdown of what’s involved.

If we took the average submission fee to NMIFF and called it $50 and multiplied that by 500 (they claim they received over 500, but we’ll round it down for our purposes) that would equal $25,000.

Let’s say it cost:

- $4000 for theatre rental & projectionist for 3 days (not sure what happens in New Mexico but you can rent a relatively nice theatre for a whole week here in LA for about that, including projectionist).

- $1000 for filmmaker hospitality/travel/accommodations (considering one of the three lives there, I feel that’s a generous number)

- $1000 for volunteer hospitality (tshirts, lunch/pizza, gas for PA’s, etc.)

- $5000 for what they referred to as a “small staff”. Let’s say this five grand covers the Program/Hospitality Manager, Theatre Manager(s), Box Office Manager and Volunteer Coordinator (if in fact these positions existed and were paid ones).

That leaves us $14,000 in cash solely from submission fees. They do list several sponsors on their website:

“What do Sony, Final Draft, Gorilla, DIYProjectorKits, Modrall Sperling & Marble Brewery have in common? They’re our 2011 corporate sponsors! And, boy, have they put together some amazing prize packages for our filmmakers! They’ve helped us exceed our promises to the Official Selections we exhibit; not only we’ll our filmmakers be receiving 50% of the box office, 100% of merchandise, accommodations, meals & travel expenses but they’ll be receiving copies of Sony Vegas Pro, Final Draft, Gorilla’s production software package and a 30% discount from DIYProjectorKits.”

Let’s say all sponsorship was “in kind” – they gave product only, and no cash. Alright, so that’s ‘a wash’ financially.

We’ll assume there were the ticket sales from the festival itself. Let’s say, on the low end, 100 people bought 5 tickets for $10 (100 x $50). This would add another:

- $5000 half of which went to the filmmakers, so the fest is left with $2500 making a grand total $16,250.00

Oh but wait, we are assured that one of the feature films received zero of the door sales so that must have gone back to the festival (unless they gave it away to homeless people outside the theatre after the screening receipts were counted). So let’s round that number up to $3500 increasing our grand total to:

$19,250.00

Okay, so maybe they pay for office space, print trafficking (again, one of the films was down the street so someone probably walked it there as opposed to calling FedEx) advertising and publicity. And of course there is the Festival Director who would probably get paid some sort of living wage or short term contract payment for his time (in the not-for-profit world a 6 month contract for this position at this level festival would be somewhere around $800/week x 24 weeks = $19,200  maybe a little more, maybe a little less).

What this tells us is this: They hosted a festival that essentially paid for itself by limiting the number of films shown, number of days of theatre rental, number of out of town filmmakers hosted and number of paid staff. That might sound like just good business sense to many. However, what they FAILED to tell the submitting filmmakers is that they had no plans to exceed those numbers – I mean, who would ever guess that with ALL the publicity they did that they (any festival!) would only show 7 films?

What filmmaker in their right mind would spend $35-$80 submitting to a festival that only shows 7 movies? In the middle of New Mexico? In 2011?

People want to compare the Sundance submitted vs selected numbers (less than 2%), BUT at least you know Sundance is going to select at least 80 shorts and 120 or so features from filmmakers *who don’t work there* (it’s against policy).

Was it a sham to showcase so few filmmakers? Not sure, I haven’t seen the films selected, I don’t know the parties involved and I didn’t attend the fest. But what I do know is that I will not be suggesting my clients, friends or facebook filmmaker ‘friends’ to submit next year – unless NMIFF is public about their schedule and the numbers bear out.

Again, thank you for highlighting this situation in your always clear, and knowledgeable manner.

Respectfully,

Roberta Munroe

Author, How Not To Make A Short Film: Secrets From A Sundance Programmer

http://www.robertamunroe.com/blog

Note: It’s also not known at this time if they received any funds from city, state or federal grants or if they received additional sponsorship monies from unlisted or last minute sponsors which would increase the potential overall budget of the festival.

Also note: Calling yourself an “International” film festival suggests you show work produced outside your host country.

p.s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!