At last Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, the Whistler Film Festival Society (WFFS) met with council and Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff to discuss the importance for increased financial support for the Rainbow Theatre renovation project. No consensus was reached, in the end, and all that came of it was WFFS executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw expressing her frustration at a municipal process that the she feels has gone awry.
But there was more to it than that, an underlying fear that everything she's been working toward for 12 years — a world-class film festival, one of the most important in the world — will be crushed if this project doesn't come through.
For two years, Hardy Mishaw has been saying that the film festival will fizzle out without the $2.7 million renovation of the Rainbow Theatre, which will serve as home base for the festival, with state-of-the-art technology and a "stylish" auditorium quite literally fit for the stars.
The WFFS has asked for an increased contribution of $700,000 in RMI funds for the project, which they assert will allow them to secure a Heritage Canada (PCH) Cultural Spaces grant. With that money secured, they can complete the project.
It likely won't happen as the WFFS has requested. The Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) committee (formerly the RMI Oversight Committee) has made the recommendation to hold the roughly $350,000 over to the 2013 budget, under the condition that funds for the entire Rainbow Theatre project have been secured.
Last Tuesday, before the Committee of the Whole meeting, Tourism Whistler passed a similar resolution, agreeing to extend the WFFS's sublease for another year under the condition that all funds for the theatre renovation are secured.
Now, Hardy Mishaw says they'll be unable to secure federal funding. Without the funding, there's no theatre. Without the theatre, there will be no up-to-date technology, no seats fit for the stars. Yes, they can rent technological equipment for the Conference Centre, which they've been doing for the past two years, but that's little more than a stay of execution.
Jane Milner, managing director, said it best during an interview with Pique back in July: "Without a theatre, we're f---ed."
The film festival is on the verge of a breakthrough. Variety, the film industry trade magazine based in Hollywood, will be publishing an issue dedicated entirely to the festival, which will be distributed across the world. The WFF is one of only 30 film festivals — compared to the 2,000 or so currently active around the world — that Variety has partnered with. This connection has yielded considerable results for the Toronto International Film Festival, the Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and, of course, Sundance and Cannes, luring the biggest stars and other industry heavyweights.