Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Films and Festival a Money Game

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Films and Festival a Money Game

Article excerpt

The high-wire act that circus artist Tino Wallenda performed on the closing weekend of the Sarasota Film Festival may be a fitting metaphor for the financial balancing act festival organizers and filmmakers endure throughout the year.

Directors of small, independent films may spend more time looking for financing than they do making their movies while seeking distribution deals to cover their costs and get their films seen beyond festival screenings.

Leaders of the nonprofit festival likewise spend much of the year raising money and seeking partnerships and sponsorships to ensure survival of an event that attracts a growing crowd each year.

"There's a push-pull between expectations and revenue -- the expectations of filmmakers and the audience and being economically responsible," said festival Director Tom Hall. "It's very difficult. We're not a year-round operation."

When he was adapting his short film "Gayby" into a full-length movie, director and writer Jonathan Lisecki said he wrote it with an eye to the budget.

"We worked within our means and figured out how much money we were going to get and made the movie for that amount of money," said Lisecki, who was back this year for the well-received full-length version of "Gayby," about a straight woman and her gay best friend who decide to make a baby.

The decision to make the feature film came during last year's Sarasota festival, and Lisecki said "raising money was a little easier" because people knew and liked the short.

He expects to reach a distribution deal in the next two weeks that will more than cover his costs.

There is money to be made on independent films, if costs are realistic, said Robert M. Warren, a festival board member who is now teaching a course on film financing at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

"If you make it for a low budget and it makes a million, you're doing well. …

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