For any nonprofit organization, good business means successful fund-raising. For the Independent Feature Project/L.A., the Independent Spirit Awards — which boasts a bevy of major corporate donors — is by far the most lucrative event of the fiscal year.
“Our membership dues are only $85 per year, so the sponsorship money from the Spirits has a huge impact on us,” says IFP/L.A. executive director Dawn Hudson. “As the Spirits have grown in producing revenue, we’ve been able to expand our services tremendously. They fund all of our filmmaker services — literally everything we do all year long.”
Since moving into a new building on Wilshire Boulevard, IFP/L.A. dedicates half of its office space to member services, including two casting rooms, a post-production suite and a resource library with a computer center.
In addition to free one-on-one consultation in areas such as legal, post-production, festivals, foreign sales and line producing, IFP/L.A. members also may participate in free screenwriting, directing and producing labs, plus a number of mentorship programs including community-based Project Involve.
Beyond member services, the org took on an ambitious project in 2000 when it started running the Los Angeles Film Festival.
“We were able to take over the L.A. Film Festival because we have healthy reserves, and it was the sponsors who created those reserves,” Hudson says.
This year, four companies –the Independent Film Channel, Express, Motorola and DirecTV — each contributed $200,000 for a premier sponsorship. Six others — Entertainment Weekly, Turning Leaf Coastal Reserve Vineyards, Audi, Starbucks, InStyle and Morgan Stanley — ponied up $130,000 for principal sponsorship.
For these companies, the brand benefits are substantial: two national cable broadcasts on IFC (30 million subscribers) and Bravo (70 million subs) plus extensive coverage in the mainstream media, which has grown steadily over the years to include over 100 television, radio, print and online outlets.
“We got involved in the Spirits because they’re extremely reflective of the brand positioning and our owners’ attitude,” says Audi national advertising manager Mary Ann Wilson. “It fits perfectly with our current tagline, which is ‘Never Follow.’ Audi is very independent-minded.”
The growth of national exposure has been particularly evident to IFC, which plays a dual role as principal sponsor and broadcaster. “We’ve been there pretty much from the beginning, from when the Spirit Awards were taking place in a hotel conference room,” says exec VP and general manager Ed Carroll.
“IFP and Dawn Hudson have done an amazing job of evolving the show, and the organization has clearly benefited from that.”