While the Newport Beach City Council approved the city’s annual cultural grants Tuesday, one councilwoman challenged the funding for the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Councilwoman Leslie Daigle was the lone dissenting vote. She said that the festival had already received enough city support, and questioned how the $6,000 cultural grant money would be spent.
The Film Festival consistently gets the most in the city’s annual special event grants awarded each summer, and is also given cultural grants through the Arts Commission. With both types of grants, this year the festival will receive $96,000 out of about $250,000 awarded to the city’s nonprofits.
“Is this really a good use of tax dollars in these times?” Daigle asked Thursday.
Film Festival officials point to the tourism generated during its week-long run each spring. Hotels and restaurants benefit from the thousands of people attending events. They say the city’s funds have a high return on investment.
The $6,000 will cover a one-day seminar in 2012. Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of “The Social Network,” gave a free two-hour seminar in April on writing for film, TV and the theater.
“It receives international acclaim for the caliber of speakers,” said festival Director of Marketing Todd Quartararo. “We’re able to make a lot happen for the size of the grant.”
Daigle questioned how exactly the $6,000 would be spent; the grant is meant to cover only the expenses for the specific event. When asked Thursday, Quartararo said he did not know the details about the seminar budget, but said the money for past seminars went to transportation, marketing and “other expenses.”
Festival producers rely on their “personal and professional contacts” to attract speakers, he said, and don’t always have to pay speaker fees.
“My concern is that tax dollars are going towards compensation for individuals involved with the festival,” Daigle said.
Besides the volunteers, some festival workers are paid by stipends “below market rate,” Quartararo said. Year-round staff members can receive up to $36,000 per year, according to city officials.