Entering its annual signature event, Aspen Film has a new executive director at its helm and aims of expanding membership and programs at the 33-year-old nonprofit.
The organization’s Aspen Filmfest starts Tuesday, with 30-plus movie screenings at the Wheeler Opera House, Isis Theatre and Carbondale’s Crystal Theatre through Sunday.
Kip Hubbard, hired as Aspen Film’s director in August, said he’s aiming to keep the caliber of on-screen programming high, while resurrecting some educational programs that went by the wayside during the recession, along with Aspen Film income and sponsorships.
“I’m focusing on the future and how we strengthen our membership here,” Hubbard said in September, after his first meeting with his staff.
He’s overseeing the organization’s daily operations, finances and such, while collaborating with artistic director Laura Thielen and program director George Eldred on film lineups. Hubbard had previously overseen marketing and fundraising for the Aspen Historical Society.
Aspen Film’s income peaked in 2006-07 at $825,000, before falling off after the recession by more than one-fourth due to declining ticket sales, grants and memberships. Last year its income was about $600,000 and expenses topped $700,000.
Hubbard said he and the Aspen Film team are focused on going after more grant money, improving member services, and launching an aggressive member drive. This fall’s “Reel People” drive offers memberships for $150.
Hubbard said the nonprofit is working to bring back production-oriented school programs, which put kids behind the camera, that were cut after the recession.
The nonprofit has continued putting filmmakers in valley classrooms — over Filmfest, for instance, eight filmmakers are expected to make the rounds in local schools — but has scaled back production-oriented classes like the Young Filmmaker Labs.
Film production, Hubbard noted, has become an increasingly accessible hobby — as kids with iPhones and laptops already have the technology to shoot and edit short films. Hubbard said he hopes Aspen Film can harness that new energy as it commits to bring production programs back into classrooms.
This fall, Hubbard said, the nonprofit is hunting for more national sponsors, some of which have fallen off in recent years.
“We’re going to go back out nationally with a new sponsorship package, nationally re-branding ourselves,” he said.
While they’re redoubling efforts to land and maintain big-dollar donors, sponsors and marquee program participants, Eldred and Hubbard said the organization is remaining vigilant about keeping its roots in the local community. Eldred pointed to destination film festivals, like Telluride’s, that put on excellent shows but price out their local communities. Aspen Film offers students tickets to films for $10 and general admission tickets ranging from $13 to $20.
“We want to be accessible, and not so exclusive that people who live here can’t participate,” Hubbard said.