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New FIND: IFP/LA off on Its Own

Severing its ties with IFP, the loosely organized national group that assists independent filmmakers, IFP/LA, the group's Los Angeles chapter, is stepping out on its own.

IFP/LA said Tuesday that it is adopting a new name -- Film Independent, or FIND -- and relaunching itself as a new nonprofit "to work more effectively on assisting and promoting the independent filmmaking community."

FIND will continue to produce IFP/LA's two signature events: the Independent Spirit Awards, the indie awards ceremony that takes place on the Saturday before the Academy Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Festival, which takes place in June.

With executive director Dawn Hudson at its helm, FIND also will retain IFP/LA's staff and its members, who currently number 6,300 and who will continue to receive the same benefits as part of their memberships.

The IFP has had six chapters: in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Seattle. Although IFP was restructured to accommodate a national director in 2002, attempts to bring the chapters together under one overarching umbrella never quite jelled, and the various chapters have operated fairly autonomously, with separate boards, executives and fundraising efforts.

In explaining the decision, approved by the IFP/LA's board, Hudson said: "It's been a gradual process to come to this decision. Our community of independent filmmakers in Southern California has grown so much in the past 25 years, as we entered our 25th anniversary, we've been undergoing a review process to make sure we're doing the best we can to serve them."

According to Hudson, IFP's current structure, though informal, required the L.A. chapter to devote some of its focus to conferring with the other chapters to find common goals and programs.

"Trying to get six separate organizations to come to an agreement isn't always easy," she said. "We felt we'd like to be able to use all our time and energy and devote our resources to focusing on our members. In order to do that, we felt we needed to change the structure. We needed to have maximum flexibility, and that means having a distinct name and a singular organization."

IFP/NY, which dates back 27 years, and IFP/LA have been the IFP's most prominent chapters. While at times they have worked together closely -- most dramatically when they led the charge to overturn the screener ban two awards seasons ago -- there also have been reports that the two have found themselves competing.

Last year, IFP/NY moved its annual Gotham Awards from September to December, a move that, in the eyes of some observers, put the New York group in competition with IFP/LA, whose splashier Spirit Awards take place in February.

However, Hudson insisted the move wasn't a concern for the L.A. group, saying, "I think the Gothams are a distinct awards show, and I applauded the move to a new date."

FIND, she said, will work closely with other groups supporting independent film, including IFP/NY. "We came together to support the screener ban," she noted. "And we'll continue to work on issues of advocacy together."

Although IFP/LA, thanks to the Spirit Awards, enjoys the biggest fundraising muscle of the IFP chapters, its secession isn't expected to affect the other chapters financially since each is responsible for its own fundraising and there are no pooled funds.

IFP/NY executive director Michelle Byrd wasn't available for comment, but the New York chapter issued a statement, attributed to Ira Deutchman, chairman of the board, that read: "IFP and its chapters around the country will continue to serve the independent film community both domestically and internationally as we have for the past 27 years. We often find ourselves working jointly with organizations, both large and small, to execute various programs and events. That will not change; our commitment to foster independents will remain steadfast."

Whether IFP will create a new L.A. chapter to replace the departing one appears to be an open question.

Among its new initiatives, FIND plans to launch a new Web site to develop an online community that will allow members to communicate easily with each other. "With 6,300 members, there is a lot of expertise among our members," Hudson said, "but now we don't have an effective tool for them to communicate with each other on a day-to-day basis. With 150 film education programs, we offer a lot of opportunities, but there isn't a mechanism for the members to communicate instantly with each other -- to discuss things like cameras, film props."

"We want to create more of an online community for our members that speaks to the special needs of Southern California filmmakers with our geography, which is so spread out," she added.

The move also is expected to affect Filmmaker magazine, which is published quarterly and has been supported by both the New York and L.A. chapters. Although Hudson said that issue has yet to be sorted out, the magazine could end up in the hands of the New York chapter.

IFP/LA staff to remain in place under the new FIND banner include Richard Raddon, festival director of the Los Angeles Film Festival; Diana Zahn-Storey, event producer for both the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards; Rachel Rosen, director of programming; and Doug Jones, senior programr.

As news of IFP/LA's shift filtered through the film community, some -- who view IFP as one organization rather than a collection of six chapters -- questioned the move. "I've always been totally impressed by the work that Dawn has done," producer Ted Hope said. "But it just feels counterintuitive to me that a membership organization would decide to split in two. I'm just not sure what having two organizations solves."

But Hudson said, "Our mission remains absolutely the same -- to support indie filmmakers, their audience and greater diversity."

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