Film fest gets Victoria city council's support; show to go on

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Jan. 17, 2012 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 17, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.

In a 5-2 vote, Victoria City Council approved allocating $43,150 to support a first-year film festival.

The vote came during Tuesday's city council meeting - attended by a full room of residents - after a week of discussion and debate surrounding how to spend hotel occupancy tax funds, rules regarding the volunteer committee which allocated funding and the "heads in beds" impact for the hotel industry.

Anthony Pedone, the executive director of Victoria Independent Film Festival, said he is grateful for the council's support.

"I was confident we were going to get the money," Pedone said. "When people want to get things done, they can. I think it's great the city has decided to take advantage of this opportunity."

Mayor Will Armstrong, who has been a vocal supporter of the Victoria Independent Film Festival, said he is excited about the council's decision.

"There's a great risk involved, but also great reward," Armstrong said.

The festival, now more than three years in the making, is scheduled March 22 to 24, the weekend after Austin's South by Southwest festival, at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

According to a proposed budget Pedone submitted to the council during a special workshop Friday, the $43,150 covers travel expenses, the venue rental and artist lodging.

Joshua Garrett, a University of Houston-Victoria student and festival volunteer, spoke at the meeting, urging the council to support Pedone.

"Bringing in the directors of these films would be ... eye-opening," he said.

Staci Robbins, Theatre Victoria executive artistic director, said the question was not "when" but "how."

She said the festival's size and impact depended on the city's support.

Council members Tom Halepaska, Paul Polasek, Denise Rangel and Joe Truman voted in favor of funding the festival.

Councilmen David Hagan and Gabriel Soliz voted in opposition.

Rangel said she likes seeing the community develop new ideas and events.

She said the film festival was "a perfect project" to spend HOT funds on.

Hagan said the vote made a "special exception" for the film festival.

Under the Texas Artists' Cultural Alliance, Pedone submitted an application to the committee on Nov. 15 for $75,000.

The application included $20,000 for advertising and administration, $25,000 for one salaried staff and $30,000 to put toward film education programs, production of a film and the cost of the film festival.

The committee denied funding for that proposal. Pedone submitted another application after the deadline.

"In my mind, it's late," Hagan said. "It's a different proposal."

He said he was doubtful of the return in funds from a first-year event.

Polasek said it is "perfectly acceptable" to review the funds and add opportunities.

"The idea that we're violating some rule doesn't hold water with me," he said.

Soliz made a motion to give the festival $100,000 from the general fund as seed money, so long as the festival did not ask for HOT funds in the future.

"This has the opportunity to skyrocket," Soliz said. "I want to support this idea," but not if it means going against the rules.

"Arts and politics is like oil and water," Soliz said. The festival could have more "credibility if it's able to develop on it's own. It's a win/win."

However, Halepaska said it was impossible to hold future councils to that motion, and any contract would be non-binding.

Meanwhile, Truman said he preferred to spend general funds on maintenance and road repairs, not the arts.

Soliz' motion died without a second.

Rangel proposed approving $43,150 for the film festival, as well as additional funding to bring the seven other organizations who were granted funding through the committee back to the HOT fund amounts they received last year.

Her motion died in a 3-4 vote.

Halepaska said her motion was "one bridge too far" and overstepped the committee's decisions.



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