The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Festival Sought Emergency Funding

4 min read


Only one day before the annual student film festival, Jonathan Stallings was surprised to find out that the Senate did not have the $1,800 they believed they had been given to run the event.

According to Stallings, co-chair of the Student Senate Film Festival Committee, the Senate had received no money this year for the “Spectacle” due to a misunderstanding with the Finance Committee.

“Student Senate thought the funds had been allocated to our committee at the beginning of fall 2008,” Stallings said.  “What I believe was told to [the Senate] was that their budget was the same as last year, and that the film festival was a part of that.  I believe that we were either overlooked by the Finance Committee, or the proper paperwork was not filled out for funding.”

The Finance Committee had not allocated any funds to the festival last year due to budget constraints.  Last year, the annual committee budget, which is typically around $500,000, was initially only $400,000, according to Finance Committee Chair Ron Brooks.  The additional money was withheld until the end of the summer.

“It was the first year we were really worried we wouldn’t get it,” Brooks said. “We had to be really strict on the allocations we could give.”

Funds must be allocated towards certain major events like Devil Goat Day.

“A lot of other events had to be put on the backburner, and the leaders of those organizations were told to come back this year,” Brooks said.

According to Student Senate President Ashley Davis, the Senate believed that they had received their usual funding, which always includes money for the festival.

“We hadn’t met with the finance committee because we were under the impression that we had the funds, so there would be no need to meet with finance committee,” Davis said.    Davis said that she did not possess a hard copy of the budget, and that the Senate would do so in the future.

“Senate will have a more firm role in the budget requesting process at the end of the year, and will also receive a hard copy at the beginning of the year, something that did not happen this year,” she said.

Brooks said that the Finance Committee had created and delivered a budget that did not include the Film Festival to the Senate.
Stallings said he would advise other clubs to make sure their finances were in order.

“These sorts of things happen if you don’t get written approval from anyone,” he said. “Verbal agreements and he-said, she-said statements are no guarantees, especially when it comes to money.”

The film festival awards $900 in cash prizes to filmmakers and also has a prize raffle for attendees. In order to save the prizes that had already been purchased with funds from the Student Senate account, Stallings, Student Government Association President Sean O’Brien and OSACS Director Joe Mollo met Friday morning, Feb. 6,  the day of the Festival,  in order to resolve the issue.

“Sean and Mr. Mollo gave me the utmost respect and patience during the meeting and resolved the issue very quickly,” Stallings said. “There are certain discretion funds available that can be used to resolve such problems that come up.”

According to O’Brien, the discretionary funds are available in certain emergency situations similar to the one that the Film Festival Committee faced.

“The fund money is dedicated to student programming,” O’Brien said. “And since Film Festival is a successful student program, Joe [Mollo] decided it would be a good use of funding.”

O’Brien said they took the number of available funds and created an entirely new budget at the meeting on Friday.

“[They] were definitely prepared for this type of problem, and everything was fixed by noon on the day of the festival,” Stallings said.

Due to the lack of funding, the Film Festival Committee had to return two of their raffle prizes, a DVD collection including “The Godfather”, “The Graduate” and “Casablanca” and a Nikon Coolpix S210 camera, worth approximately $200.

“We were still able to give away the four gift cards,” Stallings said. “I have also been recently told that the original $900 prize money that is allocated to the winning filmmakers has been restored.”

“I would like to make it clear that there is no one person to blame,” Davis said. “It was simply a misunderstanding that was solved immediately with the help of the Film Festival chairs as well as SGA and OSACS, and will not be repeated in the future.”

The Film Festival Committee said that there were approximately nine submissions, and that around 300 people attended. First place was awarded to Darien Ruggles for his film “Under the Fountain,” second place went to Marshall Schulte, Elsa Lee, and David Young for their film “Instigator,” third place went to Darien Ruggles for his film “Memento De Primer Amor,” and honorable mention went to Alice Davis and Jenn Arndt for their film “It’s a Trap!”

“I think it was one of the most, if not the most, successful Spectacles we have ever had,” Stallings said. “The attendance was great, and I would like to thank everyone that came and enjoyed themselves. It really means a lot to me and to the other filmmakers when people come out and appreciate their hard work and vision.”