The Mission Art Council’s revenue streams have been hit hard by the COVID-19-cancellation wave. In response, the council has created the first annual River’s Edge Horror Short Film Festival. / YouTube Image

River’s Edge Horror Short Film Festival: A creative response to COVID-cancellations

Event cancellations have cut Mission Art Council’s revenue streams 60 per cent

The Mission Art Council’s revenue streams have been hit hard by the COVID-19-cancellation wave. Like many other community organizations that rely on fundraising, the small team is having to get creative.

Instead of hosting the River’s Edge Haunted Attraction in October, the council has created the first annual “River’s Edge Horror Short Film Festival.”

The short films will demonstrate – like a microcosm of the council’s solution to their finances – one’s ability to be inventive with a tiny budget.

“If you have a phone and all these free programs, it’s not going to cost you a dime,” said Nancy Arcand, executive director of the Mission Art Council. “It’s a matter of showing what you can do with limited resources.”

Arcand is open about the struggles the council is facing; the office has been closed since March 18, and the typical revenue streams have fallen by 60 per cent.

“Virtually all our revenue streams are gone,” she said. “Over the course of this time we’ve cancelled every program, all our art classes, Camp Mac, our children’s festival, we’ve cancelled Rivers Edge Haunted Attraction, we’ve cancelled the Christmas Craft Market.

The latter two events made up half of the annual revenue for the council, according to Arcand.

“We’re fortunate that we have not cut any staff … [But] We’ve lost a huge $70,000 grant that we always get every year, which provides us with three extra staff, so in that sense we don’t have our full capacity.”

And the council has been pro-active about trying to attain normalcy; they obtained the federal government wage subsidy, and pivoted many of their regular event’s to be more COVID-19 friendly, she said.

Instead of Camp Mac they changed to Art In A Bag, an art kit for kids age five to 12; they put on an isolation gallery for the community, where Missionites would submit artwork to be posted digitally; they started “Story Time with Trevor,” a virtual story time focusing on themes related to events like Canada Day and National Indigenous Month; they had costume parades; kept their social media feeds active and worked with seniors isolated in their homes.

“You don’t want your organization to just fall off the face of the Earth,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we’re connected to the community.

“When you think about what people did in isolation, they’re either creating art, listening to music, drawing, they’re doing all kinds of things to keep themselves motivated. Wellness and art go well together.”

Throughout this trying period, Arcand said help has come in the form of their “amazingly supportive” landlord and the province’s BC Arts Council, which has fronted the council their regular 2021 budget ahead of time.

“We couldn’t be here without their support.”

The River’s Edge Horror Short Film Festival is another one of the creative ways the council is trying to replace past staples of their fundraising operation – spawned directly out of not being able to put on the annual haunted house.

Like the haunted house, the event will have a theme. This year that theme is phobias.

There are two groups, 18-and-under and 19-and-over, and each film has to be under two minutes, credits included.

“There’s all kind of phobias, and it’s amazing what’s out there people can spin off,” Arcand said. “People love Halloween, and there’s likely not going to be any trick or treating.”

Youth are required to film entirely on their mobile phones, and parents are only allowed to participate by acting in the pictures. Participants can submit a link to the council, and final date for submission is Sept. 30. Free editing programs will be provided, such as Youtube Editor which has free music samples. The 18-and-under films will premier on Oct. 9-11, followed by the adult films the following weekend, with the winners announced the weekend after that.

“We roll it out when we were actually supposed to be starting the haunted house,” Arcand said. “We want to be able to establish this as an annual event, that’s why I’m calling it the first annual short horror film festival.”

The council has already put out a teaser video called “Alarm” on their Youtube channel, and they are working on another short-horror film of their own, which Arcand will write and direct.

All participants will get a certificate, and the council is actively looking for a sponsor to provide some prize money for the winners, Arcand said.

“If we can find a sponsor for the River’s Edge that can provide us with a couple hundred dollars for prizes, that would be phenomenal, but I feel really bad going and asking for money when we’re all suffering.”

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