The Future of Mental Filmness

And…that’s a wrap! Happy closing night! I will refrain from posting some final numbers including awards until after The Healer and the Psychiatrist finishes its extended run on Friday, but just consider this from Eventive Analytics; Year One of virtual Mental Filmness: 61 total passes issued, 78 tickets ordered. Year Two of the virtual festival (this year): 150 total passes issued, 197 tickets ordered. And this is all compared to the year one in-person fest where we had 25 people at our peak. Obviously, being able to reach people around the globe is a huge advantage.

I’m going to talk a little bit about the mission and future of Mental Filmness now, which may get a bit sticky because I’m going to touch on finances a bit, and that can always get awkward. I don’t know why but I feel like it’s important to say Mental Filmness is not a money-making venture and I never want it to be. It’s more about a mission of bringing awareness to mental health. The 10-dollar submission fee we charge on Eventive is really merely a screening device; without that fee, we were getting bludgeoned with films on Filmfreeway, many of which had nothing to do with mental illness. The fee made people consider a minute or two what the fest was about before submitting, and I’ve tried to make it clear that we’ll waive it for just about anyone who has the need. It has also worked out the past couple of years in helping defray the costs of Eventive. If there was any money left over I’d try to funnel it back into the festival or donate it to mental health organizations, but it’s usually a bit of a money-losing venture, and that’s fine with me, I’d rather see it succeed.

However, it is clear to me even with my non-existent bookkeeping skills that in order to maintain and even grow these numbers and the festival as I’d like to, there will need to be some changes. I am considering looking into non-profit status where I will be able to fundraise and have sponsors, maybe work with some mental health organizations. These were all ideas I was considering before the pandemic hit and sapped everyone’s energy. I’m a librarian and law student so fairly confident I can “do my own research” as the kids like to say and figure some of this out on my own, but it is also clear to me that I will need helpers (and in fact, I know you have to have a board to incorporate as a non-profit).

Some people ask who’s this “we” in Mental Filmness? Is it just you? Well, I’ve always had helpers, admittedly mostly friends and people I knew had experience with or interest in mental health who I asked to help. I have to admit, though, I’ve done most of the heavy lifting since 2020, just trying to get such helpers to take a second look at films since I don’t like to be the sole arbiter of taste. But it needs to become more official and visible, I think. I could use some more screeners for sure, definitely someone who’s good at publicity stuff, another person who likes doing interviews, someone who’s good at fundraising or crunching numbers, to actually grow. Which is a little tricky because especially at this point, it would have to be someone as passionate about the subject and as happily averse to making money as me.

So these are all subjects I’m going to mull over some more. I actually love doing pretty much everything involved with this and I love exercising obsessive creative control, but I think getting more perspectives substantially involved (and letting go of the reins a bit) is admittedly needed for Mental Filmness to continue to thrive.

If anyone has any serious inquiries or ideas about this I would welcome advice, feedback, or volunteers at sharon@mentalfilmness.com. I’m going to try to put together a more professional forum once I think this through some more.

In the meantime, holy cow, look at those numbers! Just think about how many people we reached. People who may not have known about or seen reflected back at them artistic expressions about depression, suicide, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and more. People who may have felt relief someone understood them, or may have felt they finally understood something for the first time. That’s what it’s all about.

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