2 min

Show us the money

Making Scenes leaders are ducking questions about finances

The truth about the financial status of the Making Scenes festival is beginning to emerge – and it’s not a pretty picture.

It appears that the annual queer film and video festival owes a lot of money, especially to the city of Ottawa.

For the past several months, Making Scenes president Ted Buglas has been optimistic regarding the festival’s chances of screening films later this year.

But sources outside of the organization say that before the festival can move forward and regroup, it must first overcome its accumulated debt, beginning with the city.

Makings Scenes had rented space in the city-owned and operated Arts Court. But according to Arts Court general manager Sandy Merriam, the festival owes the city thousands of dollars in unpaid back rent.

While Merriam would not confirm the amount owed by Making Scenes, sources close to the festival predict the amount could be as high as $18,000.

Making Scenes had rented office space at Arts Court, located at 2 Daly Ave, until the city refused to renew the organization’s lease in December due to the unpaid rent.

“The situation was that they [Making Scenes] were in trouble financially and were in arrears. We made arrangements for them to start covering their arrears, and the deal was that if they had not paid that amount in full by Dec-ember of 2003, then we wouldn’t renew their lease for 2004,” Merriam explains. “And, in fact, they didn’t fully pay back what they owed and so we didn’t renew their lease in 2004.”

Merriam says that letters have been sent to each of the festival’s board members regarding the debt, including Buglas, but the city has yet to receive a response. The board has not held a formal meeting since last fall.

Buglas did not return multiple phone calls placed by Capital Xtra to his home and work.

Merriam added that executive director Dan Grummisch was the individual Arts Court management dealt with regarding rent payments, but she has been unable to reach him as well.

“I spoke to Dan in December and I haven’t seen or heard from him since,” she says. “I haven’t heard from anybody at Making Scenes, although there were attempts to find people and we didn’t have any luck.”

In February, Grummisch was downplaying the extent of the festival’s financial problems, telling Capital Xtra, “The rent got to be too much and the space was way too large.… We’re still here and we still love queer film. It’s still going to happen.”

But Grummisch has since moved to Montreal. And Capital Xtra has not been able to reach him to answer questions about Making Scenes’ finances.

But as the festival attempts to put itself back upon its financial feet, Merriam says that the debt owed to the city could hurt the organization’s ability to receive any form of public financial assistance.

“My understanding is that if a different group of people ever wanted to come together and re-ignite the festival, those arrears would have to be paid off before they would be considered for any other grants,” she says.

In the meantime, city officials are hoping to speak with anyone previously on the board to help answer questions and begin the process of settling the festival’s debt.

Making Scenes board mem-bers can contact Merriam at 613-564-3093.