Executive Director, Woods Hole Film Festival
Being a good advocate takes time and effort, but the results can be rewarding.
While we in the Festival world understand and value what we do and what we offer to our local, regional and state communities, we can’t assume that others share our enthusiasm or understanding. The best way to bring people along and to convert them into supporters is by first hand experience.
Invite them to your events and follow up afterwards to thank them for coming.
At the local level, it is important to know your civic leaders (Mayor or Selectmen) and business leaders and Chambers of Commerce.
If your town has an Arts or Tourism Council, get involved and stay involved. Become indispensable. In addition to providing them detailed information about the Festival, paint the picture of how your Festival fits into the fabric of the community from a financial, social and reputation perspective.
For example, in 2014, Woods Hole was deemed to be one of the best small towns in the United States for culture by Smithsonian Magazine, and the Festival was a determining factor in their calculus.
Understand the issues in the Community and try to develop programming that is responsive or complimentary to the broader concerns; this helps to create an ownership stake for residents and business leaders.
At the state level, understand that your local state rep or senator has many, many issues to consider. While an in-person meeting is a great idea, developing relationships with their staff is important as well. And keeping staff briefed will help to pave the way when it comes time for budget decision-making.
In Massachusetts, there are also several statewide advocacy organizations that focus on arts and arts funding. Mass Creative is a non-profit that helps inform legislators on issues related to arts and culture, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council—a state grant funding organization—does as well. We make sure their leaders know our story.
We also participate in the broader film community organizations, particularly the Massachusetts Production Coalition, which focuses on advocacy around film and the film tax credit.
We have and maintain a relationship with the state film office, and we keep emphasizing the importance of Festivals to them as well, although they don’t really have much ability to help financially. (However, at this past Sundance, they were able to make introductions to Massachusetts filmmakers whose work was in the Festival.)
Finally, when appropriate, be a thought leader through op-eds or other public forums.
Our philosophy: a rising tide floats all boats. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Have an idea for a case study? Email us with a proposal!