The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), the oldest, largest and most prestigious animation festival in North America, has had its funding completely cut by Telefilm Canada, which is the federal film funding branch of the Ministry of Heritage. In a June 16th letter, Telefilm Canada's director of Communications and Public Affairs, Danielle Dansereau, said that Telefilm Canada is "in a position to only support events that are primarily focused on screening feature films that are destined for wide distribution." The funding cut came as an unwelcome surprise to the festival organizers, who actually received a cash increase for the 2002 event.
"We're obviously stunned by Telefilm's decision," said Ottawa artistic director, Chris Robinson. We are outraged with the manner in which this has unfolded. How can they increase our funding one year and then completely gut us the next? We were not invited to any meetings. We were not given any opportunity to speak or address their concerns. Given that we are one of Canada's major film festivals, we're just astonished at how they've tossed aside without any discussion."
Telefilm Canada has been the festivals primary financier for almost 30 years, making up 25% of the budget. More than 50% of Ottawas budget comes from corporate sponsors, which the festival says is becoming more difficult to obtain. Currently, the festival only has enough money to last through the International Student Animation Festival, which runs October 16-19, 2003. Robinson and the festivals managing director Kelly Neall said they would try to keep the festival alive despite the funding cut. However, an entry fee may have to be implemented as well as moving the event from the high-priced National Arts Centre. Yet Robinson said he would rather close down the fest before sacrificing the quality and integrity of the event.
Neall added, We suspect that little research went into Telefilm Canada's decision. They seem to hold the belief that we only screen short independent films, which would definitely come in conflict with the more commercial mandate they have adopted over the past decade. In fact, 50% of our programming is actually made up of industrial work: television series, commercials, music videos, Internet work, television specials, children's shows and, yes, feature films. We host an industry market and, for 2004, we were planning to launch a special two-day business event specifically to benefit Canadian producers and production companies. In short, the reasoning behind our funding cut makes little sense."
Founded in 1976 by the Canadian Film Institute, Ottawa is a biennial festival next scheduled to happen September 22 - 26, 2004. In the off year, the organization presents the smaller Ottawa International Student Animation Festival, which is not funded by Telefilm. OIAF brings millions of dollars into the Ottawa area and helps promote the Canadian animation industry.