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Film advocate Heartland aims to raise $12.5 million

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Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, which holds a film festival in Indianapolis each October, is looking for $12.5 million to strengthen its influence on the film industry.

Heartland CEO Jeffrey Sparks publicly announced the fund-raising campaign, dubbed “One Film Can,” Monday morning during a press conference downtown. Director Rob Reiner, known for such films as “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally,” attended the announcement. He's in town for the premiere of his latest movie, “Flipped.”

“Heartland Truly Moving Pictures strongly believes one film can captivate, educate, shed light on an important issue and inspire change,” Sparks said in a prepared statement, released before the press conference. “Our ‘One Film Can’ Campaign is designed to expand our national outreach, and educate current and future filmmakers and major Hollywood studios on the benefits of creating movies that emphasize the best of the human spirit.”

The Heartland Film Festival awards $100,000 in cash prizes each year to independent filmmakers. With the campaign, however, the organization is looking to raise the profile of all its programs.

Much of Heartland's work revolves around the “Truly Moving Picture” award. Independent of movie studios, a local jury selected by Heartland bestows the award. Then the organization promotes the films among its grassroots network.

The organization’s “Heartland Institute” creates film-centered curriculum for use by national youth organizations and organizes a high school film competition.

Heartland actually started the fund-raising campaign in January 2008 and has already raised $7.9 million, Sparks said. The goal is to raise the remaining $4.6 million by 2012. Leading donors include the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, LaRita and Leland Boren, and the Glick Fund.

Apart from an endowment for the film festival's cash prizes, the money will go to the organization's operating budget.

Sparks said the money will be allocated to specific projects:

— $1.85 million to the Heartland Institute;

— $2.5 million to build the grassroots membership base;

— $2.3 million to increase national and local fund-raising capacity;

— $2.7 million on national advertising and marketing for the Truly Moving Picture program.

One of Heartland's internal goals is to see the top five movie studios devote a percentage of their production to “Truly Moving” projects.

Sparks said in an earlier interview that the “Truly Moving” award is getting some traction. Warner Brothers, for example, credited it with the better-than-expected performance of “My Sister's Keeper,” and “The Blind Side,” he said.

After accepting the Truly Moving Picture award for his latest film from Sparks, Reiner said, “This means more to me than anything I’ve done.”

Addressing teenagers in the audience, Reiner explained that his values changed as he grew older. His favorite movie, he said, is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and he wants to make movies like “Flipped,” which is about first love and the influence of family.

“To me, this is the most important thing I’ve ever gotten in my whole career,” Reiner said of the Truly Moving Picture award.

Heartland Truly Moving Pictures was founded in 1991. The organization has given the Truly Moving Picture award to 425 movies. The film festival has awarded $2.2 million in cash prizes.

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