Wade on Birmingham

EXCLUSIVE: Sidewalk starts again


Birmingham film festival to hire leader by month’s end

movie projectorThe next person in charge of the state’s largest film festival will need to be an organizer, a fund-raiser, but not necessarily a film buff. So says Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival’s Alan Hunter.

The Birmingham event finds itself seeking a new executive director for the second time in two years. Catherine Pfitzer was let go in February.

Hunter, president of the board, discussed by phone the challenges ahead for the 10-year-old festival for this exclusive Wade on Birmingham report.

The board has already received 20 or so applications since it advertised the position and plans to interview five applicants Wednesday. Hunter says they expect to make the hire by April 1.

Several resumes have come from Atlanta, New Orleans and Texas, though Hunter says he prefers someone local, who understands the city and the festival’s place in the community. He says that a film background is less important, given the experienced personnel already in place.

One local applicant is Melissa Kendrick, owner of Sojourns retail store downtown, who’s already on board as the festival’s part-time development director. The board hired her shortly before Pfitzer’s departure for the newly created position, funded for 12 months by grant money. Her goal is to raise $130,000 to $160,000, the cost of putting on the festival.

Sidewalk has an annual budget of $250,000 to $300,000. Hunter says the 2008 edition sold 10,000 to 12,000 tickets, and would look into providing revenue figures for tickets, merchandise and other areas.

While the festival has switched marketing partners, from the Slaughter Group to Scout Branding, no other personnel changes are planned, Hunter says.

Hunter says having the right executive director in place will spur much needed organization, allowing them to pursue sponsors, expand the audience, recruit members, and hold more events throughout the year, such as screenings and Scrambles (the weekend film competitions).

“We need to get more people to understand that this isn’t just some little independent film festival,” Hunter says, adding that he wanted citizens to donate as they do to other arts companies, such as the Alabama Ballet and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. “It’s not just for a bunch of film lovers and film geeks.”

He says the festival plans to ask for funding from the City of Birmingham, something it hasn’t done in years, and even recruit within the filmmaking community.

“We want to the new executive director and development director to motivated members of the film community to step up to the plate, to volunteer or write a check,” which would take some of the burden off of staff members.

While the festival has some debt — Hunter would not disclose an exact figure — plans are to pay down the debt sometime between the end of this year and 2010.

The festival takes place Sept. 25-27 in downtown Birmingham.

The monthly Sidewalk Salon takes place from 6 to 8 tonight at Rojo on Southside in the side room. The topic will be the festival’s transition and future. The event is free and open to the public.


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4 Yips for “EXCLUSIVE: Sidewalk starts again”

  1. ginny
    Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 5:16 pm

    I would think somebody like Kari Lane, local with lots of good promotion experience.

  2. Wade
    Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 5:25 pm

    Good suggestion, but Keri may be all too familiar with the festival’s staggering workload, having done its event production in the past.

  3. Todd
    Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 5:39 pm

    Glad you got the scoop, Wade. It’s nice to hear some of their plans and direction. I hope to hear more at the Salon.

  4. Wade on Birmingham » Blog Archive » EXCLUSIVE: Sidewalk hires Chloe Collins as Executive Director
    Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 1:28 pm

    […] if (hours>12){ hours=hours-12 } if (hours==0) hours=12 if (minutes Sphere: Related Content Also see:EXCLUSIVE: Sidewalk starts againSidewalk Moving Picture FestivalEXCLUSIVE: Sidewalk loses second director in two yearsSidewalk […]

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