City council votes likely split on funding film festival

By MELISSA CROWE - Victoria Advocate
Jan. 13, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.

A local film fest organizer may have already bought the dress, but the Victoria City Council has not decided if they will help foot the bill for a new film festival, but the vote could be split.

The city council met Friday afternoon in a special work session called by Mayor Will Armstrong to discuss spending hotel occupancy tax funds on an independent film festival set for March 22 to 24 at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

Festival frontman Anthony Pedone, who is also the executive director of the Texas Artists Cultural Alliance, asked the council for $43,150, about half of his $100,000 budget.

The other half of his budget will come from ticket sales, program ads, sponsorships and novelty sales, according to a proposed budget and income statement Pedone gave to the council.

He said the requested funds would pay to fly the filmmakers and guest jurors to the festival, cover lodging and screening fees.

"It's something that's doable," Pedone said during a brief comment to the council. "I really need your support."

Council members seemed divided on the issue, which will be voted on at the regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting.

Councilman Joe Truman said he supports fresh ideas.

"Let's encourage new things in Victoria," he said.

Armstrong said Pedone's festival is an investment in downtown Victoria's future.

The downtown area is the largest per square foot tax base the city has, he said. The largest draw to the area after 5 p.m. is the theater.

"This is money that has been brought into our city by people staying in our hotels and motels," Armstrong said.

He said it would open the door for other opportunities.

"To put it off a year when you've got this enthusiasm would be a big mistake," Armstrong said. "I think it's important to promote new events. This is for the Welder Center."

City councilman Tom Halepaska said the festival is "a grand idea" but had reservations about overstepping guidelines the council established for spending hotel occupancy taxes, specifically an application deadline the film festival missed.

"I don't want to ruin our process," he said. "It's just a little late."

Councilman Gabriel Soliz sided with Halepaska on the issue of the missed deadline.

At the Jan. 3 meeting, council members heard the first reading of an ordinance that would allocate $173,800 of hotel/motel tax funds to seven local art and historic preservation organizations.

A volunteer committee was responsible for making recommendations on spending the funds.

Of the expected total amount of taxes this year, $1,301,600, the council can spend up to 15 percent on the arts, $195,240, of which $147,500 has been allocated specifically to the arts.

That leaves $47,740 unspoken for. The standard for spending these funds is that it has to promote the arts and benefit the hotel/motel industry.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz said Pedone's film festival meets the criteria.

Councilman David Hagan said he would not support the festival, but did not offer any reason why.



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