The rivalry that frequently rears its head when eastern and western institutions collide was rarely more muted than this past March. That’s when Outfest, the 30-year-old Los Angeles-based nonprofit film organization, announced its partnership with NewFest, New York’s leading LGBT film festival. It’s a conversation that began quietly nearly a decade ago. “We realized that both organizations were both doing very similar work and we thought if we came together, we could do it more effectively,” says Kirsten Schaffer, Outfest’s executive director. “But at that time, it was logistically just too difficult to make it happen, even though both organizations wanted to.” Eventually, board members at NewFest, stung by the sluggish economy that had made securing corporate sponsors a particular challenge, reached out to Schaffer to continue the dialogue.
It’s been a win-win for both organizations. It has included, among other things, Outfest programming NewFest’s 24th annual festival this past July, which saw NewFest also partnering with the Film Society of Lincoln Center to host the screenings.
“This has proven to be the best thing we could have done,” says Steve Mendelsohn, co-president of NewFest’s board. “It exceeded many of our expectations. We were able to sell out more screenings than in the past. And, most importantly, the feedback that we obtained this year was outstanding. We’re now stronger than before. We are able to attract new audiences, we have new partnerships, and we are planning to be able to present a lot of the other programs that Outfest does on the West Coast.”