Gay film festival organizers split

The two companies that stage the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival have separated from one another, and as a result the city could potentially see two separate LGBT film festivals this year.

TLA Entertainment Group launched PIGLFF in 1995 and, in 2002, created the nonprofit Philadelphia Film Society to oversee the production of this event, as well as the annual Philadelphia Film Festival, although TLA representatives headed the artistic direction of the festivals.

TLA announced last week, however, that “recent disagreements between PFS board leadership and TLA over the management and artistic vision of the festivals has necessitated a breakup of the business relationship.”

Matthew Ray, TLA spokesperson, said the split was a necessary step.

“Like any difference of opinions, more dominoes kept falling until it led to this, when no more negotiating and talking could be done about it,” Ray said.

Ray noted that Raymond Murray, TLA founder and president who recently resigned as PFS artistic director, and other programmers could not see eye to eye with some PFS board members about how to present the festivals.

“Ray Murray had a certain vision and as part of that had several programmers who worked with him, so it was not just one vision but almost worked like a captain on a ship,” he said. “But members of the board had their own specific ideas.”

TLA will now stage Philadelphia CineFest from March 26-April 5 and a yet-to-be-named LGBT film festival that is slated for July 9-19.

The PFS programming will now be headed by PFS executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt.

“While unfortunate, the split was likely necessary and to the benefit of both TLA and PFS. The city will also benefit from the split, as it will gain additional festival and year-round film-related events,” Greenblatt said. “Many cities, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Austin, support and enjoy multiple first-class film festivals. We are excited that Philadelphia now has the ability to enter this select group.”

The PFS Web site still has the Philadelphia Film Festival posted for March 26-April 6 and PIGLFF for July 9-21.

Greenblatt said the organization is looking to proceed with these events but was noncommittal about definitive scheduling.

“Following the split from TLA, PFS is continuing the process of reinventing itself and its mission,” he said. “It remains PFS’ intention to put on a festival, along with additional year-round screenings and film-related events in 2009.”

Both Carol Coombes, former PFS associate artistic director, and Thom Cardwell, former PFS development director, will take on leadership roles in the TLA festivals.

Ray said the TLA festivals will not differ much in style or mission from last year’s Film Festival or PIGLFF, as many of the organizers on those two events will now be coordinating the TLA festivals.

“For cinema- and film-lovers, they’re not going to see any difference because of the staffing changes. The staffing changes are just transfers to TLA; we have people coming to TLA who’ve worked on the festivals for a skillion years and then even some volunteers, interns and support staff. We’re a new entity in name only, which will create a seamless transition.”

TLA also filed a lawsuit against PFS Jan. 13 in the Court of Common Pleas.

“The suit is basically insisting upon payment of back fees and monies owed to TLA from PFS,” Ray said. “TLA was covering many people’s salaries for PFS and had also paid for certain things and was waiting to be paid back. PFS is a nonprofit, so there is not that much of a cash flow there.”

PFS could not be reached for additional comment about the suit.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].