IBJNews

LEADING QUESTIONS: Film fest chief zooms in on fundraising

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk about the habits that lead to success.

As founder of Heartland Film Festival and viewer of untold thousands of movies, Jeffrey Sparks knows a “Twilight Zone”-ish, stretching-the-bounds-of-credibility happenstance when he sees one.



The festival and its not-for-profit parent group, Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, were forced to start looking for a new headquarters in early 2011. After Heartland’s 10-year office lease expired at 200 S. Meridian St., the landlord regretfully asked the organization to leave due to the space needs of an expanding tenant.

Scouting for new locations, Sparks checked out some vacant street-level space in the Murphy Art Center at 1043 Virginia Ave. He later discovered that this particular section of the building housed Universal Studios’ Granada movie theater in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Its last day of operation was Sunday, March 11, 1951,” Sparks said, “which was the day I was born.”

The 61-year-old Sparks takes the melodramatic tone of a B-movie narrator: “Little did they know that just down the street at Methodist Hospital the young person was being born who would reclaim this [space].”

Sparks, Heartland's president and CEO, was reminded of the title character in John Irving’s novel “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”

“Owen Meany always says, ‘No coincidences.’ And I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Sparks said. “We’ve reclaimed it.”

Heartland moved into the 5,200-square-foot space in September 2011. The $300,000-plus cost of renovating and outfitting the space—including a state-of-the-art screening room—was covered by donors and sponsors.

Heartland now finds itself with a major supporting role in Fountain Square’s continuing revival. It has about 90 feet of high-profile storefront space along Virginia Avenue, along the southern leg of the Cultural Trail. On First Fridays, it plays hosts to hundreds of arts patrons watching movie shorts in its screening room.

“We have people walking by all the time,” Sparks said. “We have people sticking their head in and saying, ‘What is this?’ It’s great.”

That gives Heartland’s staff a chance to delve into the group’s three-pronged approach to inspiring independent films with a positive and humane outlook. Founded by Sparks in 1991, the group hosted its first film fest a year later and today sorts through more than 1,000 submissions every year to arrive at the annual event’s 100-plus movie roster. (This year’s festival is set for Oct. 18-27.)

Heartland also awards a seal of approval—called the “Truly Moving Picture Award”—for theatrically released films that meet its standards for uplifting content and a transformative message. In addition, Heartland offers educational programs for aspiring filmmakers and actors.

“It is confusing,” said Sparks of Heartland’s different programs. “We wrestle with it all the time. We’ve tried to make it clearer. People get it when they hear ‘Heartland Truly Moving Pictures.’ They're pictures that move you. But then they say, ‘But aren’t you a film festival?’”

Making such distinctions is one of Sparks’ jobs as chief fundraiser. Heartland is in the midst of a $12.5 million campaign, dubbed “One Film Can,” and has secured more than $10.7 million toward that goal.

In the video at top, Sparks discusses the campaign’s strategy, starting with a “silent” period in hopes of gathering a critical mass of donations and enough momentum to publicly announce the final stretch. He also expounds on his personal philosophy of finding ways of showing gratitude for gifts. That leads to a tear-jerking story about his relationship with a longtime patron with a fatal disease.

In the video below, Sparks imparts a lessons learned from the early days of the festival, when he unintentionally insulted Hollywood director and Heartland guest Sydney Pollack. He also dives into the subject of succession planning, as Heartland’s board of directors begins to prepare for a day without the group’s founder and leading light.





 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

ADVERTISEMENT