New Zealand International Film Festival director resigns

New Zealand International Film Festival director Marten Rabarts resigned.

Organizers were due to make an announcement on the future of the festival on Sunday, but on Friday night Rabarts confirmed he was leaving the organization, amid growing concerns over the running of the festival.

This concern comes from the fact that the festival is going from a surplus of nearly $ 300,000 has a deficit of more than $ 600,000 within a year.

The festival hasn’t been in the red since 2013, when its deficit was just over $ 43,000, according to its annual reports published online. The deficit of $ 600,000 was for the year ended December 31, 2020.

The New Zealand International Film Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in Wellington this year.

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff

The New Zealand International Film Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in Wellington this year.

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As the annual festival is set to end next week, concerns are expressed regarding the management of the festival under its current board of directors and Rabarts, who had held the position since 2019.

Several former festival employees and people with knowledge of his financial situation who spoke on condition of anonymity had serious concerns about his future. There was speculation he would ask the government for a bailout if the situation worsened.

Rabarts did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In an emailed statement, festival executive director Sally Woodfield said the festival was “seriously affected” by Covid-19 in 2020.

Before 2020, the festival built up reserves through careful management, which allowed it to survive the loss of $ 600,000, she said. He had requested and received additional funding from the New Zealand Film Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage this year.

The physical remoteness had an impact on the number of seats he was able to sell. Despite capacities below 50%, the success of this year’s festival in Wellington came close to the festival’s record run of 2019, she said.

Film festival board member Catherine Fitzgerald speaks at the festival opening earlier this month in Wellington.

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff

Film festival board member Catherine Fitzgerald speaks at the festival opening earlier this month in Wellington.

Film festival sources said Rabarts was overseas in Europe during a critical time earlier this year when important decisions were being made regarding this year’s festival. But Woodfield said it was for personal reasons due to a family illness. Before traveling, “the program was largely over,” she said. Rabarts was in “full contact” with the office abroad.

People were also upset about the lack of a contingency plan for Auckland, including the lack of an alternative digital / online festival offer. Instead of the festival season in Auckland has been completely canceled.

There has also been criticism that the festival takes place during the warmer months, when people weren’t as interested in going to the movies, which sources said would impact audiences. Woodfield said organizing “any event” during the pandemic was a challenge, let alone the scale of the festival, which took place at 11 centers across 22 venues.

Regarding the lack of an alternative to running the festival in Auckland, Woodfield said: “We had no choice.” As the festival explored “multiple” options for hosting it there, she said it was ultimately “not possible” to geographically target the films to Auckland audiences with an online presentation of the films. movies. He was working to present a few films in Auckland early next year.

The festival provided the funding it received, to its audiences, sponsors and filmmakers, Woodfield said. “This is our mandate.

Next year, the festival would return to its usual July / August time slot, and planning was underway for that, Woodfield said.

Director of the International Film Festival Marten Rabarts has resigned.

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff

Director of the International Film Festival Marten Rabarts has resigned.

Former and current employees have also raised concerns about the number of full-time festival staff and long-time entrepreneurs who have left the organization.

In April 2020, former Managing Director Sharon Byrne resigned after more than two decades of service, and Director of Communications Rebecca McMillan resigned in March 2020 after spending more than a decade there. Byrne’s successor Lisa Ellingham left in June after a year, according to her LinkedIn profile online. She was replaced by Woodfield.

But Woodfield said that for the past 18 months the festival has had a staff member’s leave. “We have no comments regarding comments from former employees, as former employees may not have any knowledge of the operation or management of the festival over the past months / years, so they have no knowledge on which to base their conclusions. concerns. “

New Zealand Film Commission chief marketing officer Jasmin McSweeney said film festivals around the world have been “disrupted, delayed and canceled” due to Covid-19. “It’s fair to say that Covid has also disrupted the ability of New Zealand film festivals to plan with confidence,” McSweeney said. The commission funds the festival through an annual open application process.

NETFLIX

Following screenings as part of this year’s New Zealand Film Festival, Jane Campion’s New Zealand set of The Power of the Dog is set to hit theaters on November 11, before making its Netflix debut on December 1.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Wellington Festival, and it paid tribute to its longtime former director, late Bill Gosden, who passed away last year.

The deputy director general of the ministry for investments and results, Joe Fowler, said he had donated $ 100,000 to the festival of his Emergency relief fund for the cultural sector.

“The ministry remains in contact with [the festival] and the commission on their current situation … Despite the challenges of the Auckland foreclosure, the reduced capacity of the sites and their financial concerns, [the festival] managed to put on a big festival with many sold-out sessions, ”said Fowler.


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