Has it been half a decade already?
This month, Ottawa is marking the fifth anniversary of Inside Out Ottawa-Gatineau. Not only is it getting older, but organizers say that, thanks to enthusiastic community support and solid local sponsorship, the queer film festival is also getting bigger.
“Even that first year, the audience reaction to it was really positive and really strong in terms of ticket sales,” says Scott Ferguson, executive director of Inside Out. “That helped us to cover costs and put a little money in the bank for the future editions of the festival. Now that we’re at the five-year mark, it has become part of our regular annual operations. It’s an important part of what we do.”
Ferguson says strong local support helps minimize overhead, ensuring the festival is sustainable. The local satellite of Toronto’s Inside Out Festival began when Jason St-Laurent, who recently returned to his role as curator of Ottawa’s SAW Gallery, proposed that Inside Out find a way to fill the cultural gap left by the closure of Making Scenes in 2003. The organization’s board of directors approved a one-year pilot initiative in Ottawa but said renewal would be dependent on the community’s response.
“[St-Laurent] was very involved in the LGBT and arts scenes in Ottawa and really noticed that there was a gap in terms of queer film being shown in the city,” says Ferguson. “Now, of course, he’s back in Ottawa.”
Between St-Laurent’s presence in Ottawa and Inside Out’s local coordinator, Loresa Novy, Ferguson says the festival is in good shape to produce an event that continues to expand while maintaining its community roots.
“It’s been great working with all of the crew there,” says Novy, who has a background in event planning and communications and has done similar work with other film festivals and queer events, such as Capital Pride.
The crew recently held an official launch to create early buzz.
“It was fun. It was great. We had about 50 people out to it,” Ferguson says. “It was a good night, and it was good to get excitement going. We played a program of Canadian shorts that we’re touring around to different cities in Ontario. All of that is a result of the Ottawa festival — we’re starting to do more touring.”
This year the organization received an Ontario Arts Council grant to bring queer film screenings to smaller communities that don’t have access to grassroots queer cinema or the benefit of festivals like Inside Out. So far, they’ve visited Peterborough and Ottawa with a lineup of short films from mostly Ontarian artists. Over the next few months, they plan to run similar events in Hamilton, London and Kingston.
In the meantime, the Inside Out team is planning for this year’s Ottawa-Gatineau edition of the festival, which takes places Nov 17 to 20, as well as future events.
“We’d definitely like to see it become larger,” Ferguson says. “This year, we’re presenting 13 programs — one shorts program, and all the rest are feature films. It really doesn’t give us a chance to play everything we want.
“If the audience keeps growing and we see that there’s a demand, to me it says we should be up there more.”
Queer film enthusiasts will be happy to know that festival passes are now available, to ensure maximum viewing.
“If you want to see a lot of films, you can get a single all-access pass or a double one, which gets you into the parties, as well,” Ferguson says. “So it’s a really good value.”
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