4 min

Film festival’s mysterious finances

Board members describe Making Scenes board as an illusion

Credit: Capital Xtra files

The Making Scenes Queer Film And Video Festival has vanished without a trace: no files, no films, no records, no money, no executive director – and now, no remaining board members.

President Ted Buglas, the board’s last remaining active board member, says that he will be stepping down from his post, due to his inability to tackle head-on the overwhelming size of the festival’s financial mess.

The move comes after revelations about the festival owing the city thousands of dollars, a debt Buglas says he knew nothing about.

For the past several months, Buglas had been optimistic regarding the festival’s chances of screening films this winter or early spring.

But over the summer, he says, rumours began percolating about the festival’s finances.

“Until that time, I had been quite optimistic about rebuilding the festival, but this changes things significantly,” Buglas says, confirming the debt owed to the city. “This is serious.”

Makings Scenes had rented space in the city-owned and operated Arts Court, located at 2 Daly Ave, but the city refused to renew the organization’s lease in December due to thousands of dollars in unpaid rent. Sources close to the festival say the amount could be as high as $18,000.

Dan Grummisch, the festival’s executive director, had been the individual Arts Court management had been dealing with regarding rent payments.

But Grummisch has since moved to Montreal. And neither the city nor Buglas nor Capital Xtra has been able to reach him to answer questions about Making Scenes’ finances.

“So, while I’ve been acting as spokesperson for Making Scenes in Dan Grummisch’s absence, I have to say that I have never been registered or filed as a director of the corporation,” Buglas explains. “The fact is that the executive director ran the festival and although titles like ‘president’ and ‘treasurer’ were assigned by him, they conferred no de juro or de facto authority.

“So, as much as I’d like to continue to rebuild Making Scenes, clearly I’m not in a position to do so. And I’m disassociating myself from the festival,” he says.

Buglas says, however, that he still believes that there is an audience for a queer film and video festival in Ottawa.

“And there’s lots of great programming out there,” he says. “But, the thing is, that this is a huge undertaking – it’s not a burden that one person should be asked to carry.”

And yet it appears as if that’s just what executive director Dan Grummisch did.

According to Buglas, Grummisch ran the festival from top to bottom: from setting policy to programming to the day-to-day business operations.

“Essentially, by the time I joined the organization [about three years ago], very clearly it was being run by the executive director,” Buglas explains. “My take on the whole thing was the board was very little other than an advisory committee. And even in that regard, its ability to intervene and contribute was minimal.”

Buglas adds that there were “governance issues with the festival” for the past few years, and while there were some “efforts made to redress” those issues, they were “not properly responded to.”

“And I’m not trying to blame anyone, I’m certainly not trying to exculpate myself, I feel absolutely devastated about this, but I have no authority,” Buglas says. “I have no signing authority, no access to the corporate bank account, I’ve got no records past 2001, I’ve got no contact with the executive director – I have no legal authority in the corporation and I feel like I’m left holding the bag. There’s very little I can do with the surfacing of this issue of money owed.”

Former Making Scenes board member Drew Patterson says even though he handed in his resignation in 2002, his name was still listed on the festival’s 2003 programming material as the board’s treasurer, a position he says he filled “in name only.”

“I think Making Scenes had a mandate that they had to fulfill for board members and they just, kind of, had people on there, but I don’t know the [whole] story,” Patterson says. “But I was treasurer in name only. The finances were all handled by Dan…. I didn’t even have my name on the checking account, so I clearly was not the real treasurer.”

As well, former board member Sarah Chretien-Melbourn was also listed as an officer on the Making Scenes’ 2003 festival program – even though she had not officially served on the board in five years.

“I never met Sarah Chretien-Melbourn,” Buglas says.

According to Glenn Crawford – who as an HRDC-sponsored employee performed the layout and design of the festival’s website (which is now offline) and the 2003 programs – all of the content included in last year’s website and programming material was “directed to me from Dan Grummisch.”

Grummisch joined Making Scene’s board of directors in 2000. He was then hired as the festival’s executive director in 2001, a role he actively filled until earlier this year.

Former Making Scenes president Tracey Clark, a long-time friend of Grummisch, says the topic of the festival has been a “prickly point” between the two in the past.

Clark, who joined the Making Scenes board in the festival’s infancy, helped to guide the annual event’s early growth and secure its place of importance in Ottawa’s queer community.

“When I was associated with the festival, I think that there was a sense that I did provide leadership to it, and we did focus on self-generated revenues, and we did a really good job of being accountable,” Clark says. “And I think that there is a sense that the festival fell into a state of disarray and I think that he [Grummisch] is embarrassed about that.”

But Clark adds that while Making Scenes may have “outlived a full-time focus,” there still is a place for the festival in Ottawa’s queer community.

“For me, it needs to have a sense of home. If it’s going to be resurrected it needs to transform its purpose or find kind of a complementary home,” Clark says. “I am sure it has some role to play in our community, and I’m confident of that, but it needs a home.”

Buglas agrees.

“I think that there are all sorts of possibilities,” he says. “I still think that there’s an audience out there and there’s lots of great films and videos.”

Buglas adds that if another group of people become interested in reviving the festival, “in whatever shape or form,” he would be “very willing” to share his experience and “do what I can.”

“But I realize that my association with this festival may make me persona non grata in terms of anything that starts up again and I understand that.”

And after months of hard work and heartaches trying to put the festival back on track, looking into the festival’s future may be the only reprieve.

“It’s just a relief to look forward,” says Buglas. “This is devastating.”