Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival calls it quits

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Perhaps we should have seen it coming, after what Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival organizer Alma Cremonesi told us here last year:

I'm thinking if we don't have some kind of a breakout year, then maybe we should raise the question, 'Should we keep doing this?'

But perhaps we were thinking back to the earlier years, when Cremonesi also talked about the need to "break out" — but always kept the festival going anyway, even as turnout stagnated.

Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival
  • A logo you may not ever see again in local advertising arenas.

Either way, Cremonesi has cancelled PPLFF for 2012 and has no plans of reviving it herself, though she says she's willing to share her organizational information with anyone who can legitimately take leadership and move the annual LGBT film festival forward.

A number of factors prompted Cremonesi's decision to let her hard work go after 12 years. She said she'd already picked the programming for this year's fest on her annual trip to San Francisco, but finally made the call to kill it in late July.

One factor is attrition, both on her organizing board and with audience numbers. Six of 10 members left the board recently, and Cremonesi says attendance dropped from around 1,300 people for the first eight years (when the fest was held at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center) to around 1,000 for the ninth through 11th years and down to 950 people in 2011 (once the fest had moved to Colorado College).

"Most festivals have a breakout period," she says. "We never got to that point."

Still, she adds, "I had plenty of money to go forward. The problem wasn't external, but internal."

Cremonesi describes what she calls "horizontal hostility" between her and some of the LGBT community, sharing one anecdote about how after she sent out notice to all the former supporters of the fest regarding its cancellation, "the only thing I heard back was, 'What are you going to do with the money?"'

On a personal note, she adds that she turned 70 last December, having launched the fest as a "retirement activity." She says that, "when you get old, you want peace and to look after your own health ... I didn't want to deal with it anymore" — referring to the infighting, not the actual production so much.

She notes that the straight community in Colorado Springs was always supportive of the festival, but that she was disappointed by the turnout from the LGBT community: "The census said there were 30,000 same-gender households in Colorado Springs, which doesn't count single gay and lesbian people — so for only 1,300 of those people to come out, a lot from other places ... it just wasn't supported to the extent we hoped."

The Gill Foundation, after supporting the festival annually since its inception to the tune of around $3,000, also withdrew a portion of its support this year, according to Cremonesi. This year, rather than an outright donation, they were going to move to a challenge grant, she says.

Also, the fest was pushed back two weeks on the calendar, behind the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, to the beginning of Thanksgiving week. Cremonesi says she could have used that festival to publicize hers, but still, she had some concerns about the timing.

Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival
  • For 12 years the Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival brought smiles to the LGBT and straight communities alike.

Her biggest expense annually was for the film rentals, she says, which amounted to anything from $500 to $1,200 for single-showing permission. When the economy lagged several years ago, her annual budget dropped from around $35,000 to $25,000, which included paying for an opening-night reception, publicity and for out-of-town filmmakers to attend and present.

So, looking at the potential for anyone to revive the fest, $25,000 would be a realistic starting point in terms of reproducing the past 12 years' scale. Email Cremonesi directly at almafestival@comcast.net if you are interested in truly taking the reins.

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