January 27, 2009

The Arts and the Economy

January 27, 2009Over the past few months, the economic recession (or are we calling it depression yet?) has shifted from being the elephant in the room to being front and center in everyone's thoughts and conversations.The arts aren't immune to economic troubles. While the new administrations emphasis on the importance of the arts is promising, along with the fact that the Senate is considering legislation that would allow for $50 million in funding for the NEA (read more here), it remains to be seen whether we will continue to place value on the arts when industry, education and government are in just as serious of trouble. Unfortunately, the US isn't known for funding arts in the first place.One small story among many is that yesterday, Variety magazine announced it will be shuttering its film festival blog, The Circuit. Michael Jones, the film festival editor of Variety, eloquently describes the important place of film and film festivals in hard times:"The blossoming depression is now an inevitable part of all small talk. Hard to even call the talk small. Yet in the wake of a 70,000-plus job loss yesterday, the magnitude of what the country faces threatens to make the individual story smaller. It's important to remember the stories above this drone of newspaper statistics and bad news avalanche. The news will get worse. We'll rely on filmmakers and artists to make some sense of it all, or to at least shift our gaze. Which is frankly just as good."And that task is the film festival's job -- to put up stories in that great black box, on that giant screen, with that enveloping sound system, and under the influence of a room full of moody strangers. All without a pause button. Film festivals are cinema's art gallery and in an economic crisis it is a cheap temple to worship at. For me, it's the best worship around." Read the whole article...As you can imagine, Mountainfilm is feeling the impact of a disintegrating economy. Right now, we're doing ok, and even pushing forward with an ambitious new educational program called Making Movies that Matter, but we're also looking toward the fiscal future very cautiously.Our forward-thinking financial team has re-written a very conservative budget, and we're hoping to keep the festival experience much the same as before, while streamlining all the internal processes. It remains to be seen whether or not we will have to start making larger sacrifices, but one thing is certain:The show must go on!