Proposed Carmel film and music festival could lose city backing

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The organizers behind Carmel’s proposed film and music festival might have to come up with an additional $825,000 without the help of the City Council in order to debut the event next May.

Council members questioned Wednesday night whether it would be appropriate for the city to continue spending money on next year’s proposed festival when there is still so much uncertainty about the event’s budget, the spread of the coronavirus and future tax revenue. Several council members said, despite their support for the arts, it’s just “bad timing.”

“I feel like we’ve got bigger priorities to focus on,” council member Sue Finkam said. “I don’t want another dime spent on this.”

Carmel Community Relations and Economic Development Director Nancy Heck and Mayor Jim Brainard originally requested $425,000 from the city’s 2019 budget for a festival bringing symphony performances and film premieres to Carmel City Center, but councilors only approved $50,000 in October to start exploring the idea.

Since then, festival organizers have hired former Carmel Downtown City Center Development Corp. board member Mary Buckler and Carmel Symphony Orchestra music director Jana Hymes to lead the event.

Heck said the festival’s not-for-profit has formed a board and approved a draft budget for the event to run May 14-23, but Heck had technical difficulties and was unable to share them at Wednesday’s meeting. Council President Laura Campbell said she was disappointed to see—after repeated requests—Heck had not included that information in the evening’s packet of materials.

“This entire process for this festival has been very painful and a disappointing one,” Campbell said. “I think it’s time we rip the Band-Aid off.”

After relaying a preliminary budget to the council, Heck told IBJ after the meeting that the Carmel Film and Music Festival is anticipating the event’s total budget will be $608,000 in 2020 and $925,560 in 2021.

“We can’t really sign a contract with entertainers unless we have a purchase order, so we have to have that money sitting there, even though we won’t spend it until 2021,” Heck said.

Heck said, in addition to sponsorships and grants, the festival was planning to ask the council for $825,000—$375,000 in 2020 and $450,000 in 2021.

To help with that, Brainard said he is in discussions with an unnamed event sponsor that could provide the festival with $1 million over the course of its first five years. He said bringing the festival to the city could be just what small businesses, restaurants and hotels need to help recoup losses caused by the pandemic.

“It would bring a tremendous amount of business to the city from other places,” Brainard said. “I understand the risk and perception, but I believe there’s a good argument to be made that our investments in the arts have paid off.”

Council member Adam Aasen said he understands the economic value of bringing in additional arts and film organizations, but he’s concerned about the message that might send to the arts organizations currently suffering in Carmel due to the pressures of the pandemic.

“They have a lot of revenue that they’ve lost, and I wonder how those organizations feel about us giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to new arts organizations,” Aasen said. “The timing may just not be right, right now.”

Heck said, over the next few weeks, she’s hoping to build community support and research indicators that the film industry is in recovery.  She’s hoping, with enough outside funding, she might be able to convince the council to still partner on the project.

“I hope they don’t totally pull out right now because I think there are a lot of things up in the air that might shake out,” Heck said.

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8 thoughts on “Proposed Carmel film and music festival could lose city backing

  1. Who knows at this point the who and the what of the quality of the entertainers etc. and how their or the strength of drawing power will draw the potential of revenue to be a profitable venture?

    In this time of “COVID-19” it would be wise to hold the cards and money. Look at what has happen to entertainment, recreation, and the other business commerce mentioned now.

    1. To clarify – Music festivals and suing other cities seems to be an odd focus.

  2. With the significant cost over run of the Hotel project amid declining business income, declining income from sales tax and other reductions in revenue, the City had better quit spending right now and pay attention to responsible needs of the citizens and community. That has been the problem all along with continual spending wherein things were on the up but these expenditures are going to land squarely on the taxpayers and need to be stopped now. Why did they just spend multi millions on a roundabout at Range line and Carmel drive just a short time ago, and now went back in and reconstructed it again duplicating cost. Not only the expense, but closing streets when business is trying to recover from this shut down and the city is closing streets. 96th street is once again closed and has been now for over a month and half. Businesses are suffering enough. The city is wasting money, and this project is a prime example of not caring about taxpayers, but wanting to showcase.

    1. These projects didn’t happen overnight, they have been planned on for months if not years. Just looking for something to complain about?

  3. Brainard has never done a project for what he initially said it would cost, usually over by 50%+ at a minimum. There is never a full accounting of spend either. If history is a teacher we have already committed money and it will be a choice of go forward or lose it

  4. Just another lie coming from the mayor. In 2000 he told the Carmel Redevelopment Commission that he had talked with Steve and Tomisue Hilbert and they were going to create and fund an endowment that would support the expected annual operating deficit of The Palladium only to find out from them directly that he had not even spoken to them about it. Then in the spring of 2007, while running for re-election in the primary, he repeatedly told the citizens of Carmel that he could complete the design and re-construction of Keystone Ave with the $90M being provided by the State as “deferred maintenance”, only to ask the City Council a few months later, after the election, for a $50M bond to complete the construction of Keystone Ave. How about the International Arts Festival championed by the mayor as a “community funded event” that used City employees on City time to help with planning and fundraising (ghost employment) only to have its $450k operating deficit later covered by a City Council appropriation? The truth is: Nothing proposed or promoted by Mayor Brainard should be taken as it’s presented. There will ALWAYS be a back story and fiscal deficit to come.

  5. Hmmm……if only there was already an internationally renowned film festival close by. Like maybe even in Indy……that has been running for 29 years now. Wait, why don’t you just drive a little bit and support the Heartland International Film Festival in Indpls – you don’t have to have Everything yourselves in Carmel, do you….could help support existing arts organizations? Would save the City of Carmel a lot of money too!