Waterfront Film Festival Continues a Long Tradition of Growth

While other arts and culture organizations are struggling to raise money and maintain their budgets, the Waterfront Film Festival continues to grow and thrive year after year. What's their secret? Hopwood Depree, founder of the nonprofit organization, tells all.

When the organization began in 1999 to provide a 'middle coast' venue for independent filmmakers, there was a shoestring budget, very little awareness for the cinematic arts in West Michigan and the struggle to find the hundreds of volunteers the organization needs and relies on to survive.

"The first year we were able to screen 16 feature films, " Depree says. "This year, we offered 80 feature films with over 16,000 festival attendees."  

Depree is proud of the accomplishment, but the organization is planning even more for the future with additional venues, improved audience comforts and more films. He credits the Saugatuck community and the very generous sponsors in part for this success.  

"There is a strong sense of giving and volunteering to support nonprofits and see them flourish and survive," he says.  "It's not just supporting a charity, but it is kicking off the summer season." 

But it's also more than that from an economic perspective. The Waterfront Film Festival brings more opportunities to Michigan residents, providing the opportunity to network with filmmakers while acting as an economic driver for the region. With the influx of people, there is also an increased awareness of the cinematic arts. 

Although there is the fun and excitement around opening night of the festival with outdoor screenings and a street party, the real excitement extends into the future as the organization plans and gears up for year-long activities including workshops, screenings, networking and production labs. This is one organization to keep on your radar. It's strong, vibrant and remains competitive in the Michigan climate. Arts and culture organizations should take note: it's the people that drive this organization who make it an amazing nonprofit creating a difference in our community.

You want to participate too? Here's how:
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Save the date for next year's event…  June 14 - 17, 2012