Jun 25, 2008

Don't trust student film festivals

The following is a reprinted email which I sent this morning to, well, alot of people. It's relatively self explanatory.


I write today to the former staff of Northwestern's Flicker Film Festival, at one time one of the country's most lauded student film fests, and to the members of Northwestern's Associated Student Government, who until this past February oversaw the committee which put together the yearly festival, before derecognizing the group this past February, in order to state a grievance and ask for immediate action on the part of the ASG to rectify it.

I'm a graduate of State University of New York at Purchase's Cosnervatory of Theatre Arts and Film and a former Northwestern University Cherub in its Media Arts division. I have a fondness for the University forged during the very formative summer of 2001 during which I attended Cherubs and I was hoping for a fun and slightly nostalgic return upon the acceptance of my short films Happiness is no fun. and Evangeleo to last year's festival.

Of course, that was not meant to be - at the time the website for the festival didn't list the dates for the 2007 edition, which were several weeks earlier than the previous year's edition had been, and no one from the festival staff contacted filmmakers with screening dates, travel information or accommodations, as respected events tend to do. I was unable to attend. However, Evangeleo won two prizes at the festival, including its top prize, which is the reason for this admittedly bizarre and unfortunate correspondence.

I was never paid the $500 grand prize that the festival's website and the submissions chair, who has asked out of embarrassment that her name be stricken from this letter and who is quoted in the comments below, assured me I would be receiving promptly after the festival ended. I did accept the other half of my prize, Evangeleo's admittance to an altogether enjoyable student film festival in Wilmington, NC, where me and a few of my collaborators were treated quite hospitably. Time and time again since April of 2007 I have reached out to former festival presidents Vladimir Gutman and Muindi Muindi, who have shown nothing but contempt for their responsibility to pay me what is owed and have ignored my requests for over a year, well before Flicker's funds were seized and its student group status derecognized. Other members of the staff have been more forthcoming, but save a few fall 07' correspondences from Mr. Muindi, in which he assured me I'd be paid within a month, I have heard nothing from the staff a Flicker concerning payment. This situation just won't do.

Of course, who sues anyone over $500? What is this, Judge Judy? I know nothing of the festival's other unpaid vendors or filmmakers (what of the $200 prizes promised to the runners up? Did they receive their prizes from Flicker 2007?), but legal action is clearly not worth the time, energy or finances. Rather, I'd like to appeal to the ASG's finance board, the group that essentially disbanded Flicker, to pay me what is owed. I am a freelance film producer and journalist. This does not engender an extravagant lifestyle - I scrape by in a rather inhospitable New York real estate climate by living cheaply and well into the frontier of Brooklyn gentrification. Although the denizens of an exorbitantly priced private institution like Northwestern might not realize it, $500 is no small amount of money for someone like myself. If the situation is not resolved to my liking, the only recourse I will have is to report on the altogether unacceptable treatment I have been privy to by representatives of this historical institution in the reputable publications and blogs I write for: Filmmaker Magazine, Hammer to Nail and Cinema Echo Chamber, to name only a few. Trust that I will do my best to make sure, should Flicker or any other film festival find its way onto Northwestern's campus again, that student and independent filmmakers the country over know just what to expect from the festival's braintrust - for them to fuck you.


Brandon Harris