By eug | eugonline February 25, 2007 at 5:21AM
Yesterday's front page LA Times story criticizing Film Independent for its program-spending ratio and the categorization of the Spirit Awards as a charitable event is stirring an indirect backlash from supporters of FIND. In a blog post today, Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson cites Tom Bernard from Sony Pictures Classics as saying that in the article, "someone with a right-wing agenda was going after indie cinema" (and Thompson also noted that the paper's Calendar section was angry about the article). The paper is a major supporter of FIND's Los Angeles Film Festival.
A big headline for some will be FIND head Dawn Hudson's $265,000 annual salary. While that does seem like a lot of money for a non-profit to pay a leader, particularly when many other tireless supporters of indie film make far less, the salary is public knowledge via tax filings and one that other non-profits (and at least some of those in the media) were well aware of for a long time. To anyone who's ever questioned me about her salary in the past, I've always noted that Dawn is a tireless advocate for her organization and she is also well-respected within the industry. I've always praised the hard work of Hudson and her staff -- I typically see it up close at two annual events: the Spirits and the LA Film Fest.
The fact is that "independent film" today is deep and wide and tall and on Spirit Awards day, its pretty amazing that FIND has found a way to (literally) fit it all under one tent, even it if feels like an awkward fit at times. Dawn deserves a lot of credit for pulling it off, but it also makes her org and the event a large target. As for the article, I'd say it raises legitimate questions and offers a way to at least consider the work of FIND and other member groups, but I've yet to poll others in the non-profit field about the issues. As a reporter, I hope FIND will remain open to such conversations. More on all of this down the road...