Carmel explores possibility of launching film fest

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Carmel is known for its support of the arts, from concerts at the Palladium to plays at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre to the many sculptures on sidewalks and in roundabouts around town.

Some believe, however, that a major category is missing: film. But that might not be the case for long.

The Carmel City Council approved $125,000 in its 2019 budget to help launch an international film festival, but those involved say residents shouldn’t necessarily expect the inaugural event to happen this year.

“We need to make sure we have the right partners. We need to make sure the  money is well utilized so we get a return in terms of economic development,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. “We’re going to do it right. We’re not going to rush it. We have the flexibility to move ahead this year if we choose to, but we’re not at the point where we can say whether we’d move ahead this year.”

Brainard has been working with Adam Aasen, a local business owner and film buff who is running for city council, to research what it would take to launch a film festival in Carmel.

“I would argue strongly that film is an art form, so it’s the next step for the city truly supporting arts as an economic impact tool like it has in the past,” Aasen said. 

Carmel is well positioned to host a film festival, Aasen said, because of its “great theaters.”

“We had very preliminary discussions with the Center for the Performing Arts, and while nothing is confirmed, there was mutual interest in exploring this idea,” he said. “One thing we see in a lot of film fests is that they’re very spread out, so if you have to go from one theater to another, you’re driving across town. Carmel’s walkability really makes it unique in that regard.”

The festival would likely function through a nonprofit organization. Brainard and Aasen emphasized that plans for the event are still in the preliminary stages and that no board or director has been identified. Aasen said he will not serve in a paid role with the festival.

If the city does not move forward with a film festival in 2019, the $125,000 approved for it would revert back to the general fund at the end of the year.

Aasen said it’s not unusual for film festivals to receive outside financial support.

“If you look at any film festival across the country, usually ticket sales alone are not going to support it 100 percent,” he said. “That’s when either cities or private support comes in.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the film festival is encouraged to contact Carmel’s office of community relations and economic development at 317-571-2494.

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