Outfest – the long-running LGTBQ film festival in Los Angeles – continues to face setbacks, announcing Thursday that it will scale back its operations, furlough its staff and postpone the Legacy Awards gala fundraiser.
In a statement from the Board of Directors The Hollywood Reporterthe changes are due to ‘the financial climate of the media and entertainment industry’.
News of the current cuts comes just weeks after the nonprofit’s staff announced plans to unionize. “To succeed in our mission to build a more just and equitable film industry, we must first build it for our organization,” read the note to the board of directors of staffers, asking for voluntary recognition of the union. Two days later, it was announced that five of Outfest’s 12 employees, all of whom had voted to unionize, had been notified on Thursday that they had been fired. In addition, executive director Damien Navarro would step aside for a “minimum” 45-day leave of absence.
At the time, an anonymous union organizer said: “We find it disheartening that at a time of change and potential growth, the immediate course of action has been one of contraction rather than collaboration.” In a statement issued to THR, an Outfest spokesperson said that “staff had been notified that the organization had planned a workforce reduction before any communication regarding unionization took place. Outfest is definitely pro-union.”
As part of Thursday’s memo announcing the latest cuts, Outfest’s board offered that it has “issued staff with a letter recognizing their union, including reaching out to find a date for a meeting. It is our ongoing priority to celebrate the workforce as we forge a productive path forward.”
This year’s Legacy Award was scheduled to take place on October 22 in Los Angeles at the Nueue House, with Shirley MacLaine and Trace Lysette paying tribute. Recent honorees include Janelle Monáe, Billy Porter and Tom Hanks.
Read the full statement from the Board of Directors below.
To ensure that Outfest endures and thrives in its core mission of supporting and creating opportunities for LGBTQIA+ storytellers for the next 40 years, the Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to scale back our operations in the coming months. We are postponing our Legacy Awards to 2024 and pausing our programming.
Like other nonprofits, Outfest has been severely affected by the financial climate of the media and entertainment industry. This means that the organization will unfortunately also have to initiate furloughs for the majority of our staff as we humbly focus on creating a financial model that prioritizes programming that serves our community, a supportive environment for our staff, and ultimately the organization protects.
The board proudly supports staff’s right to join a union and has provided staff with a letter recognizing their union, including the ability to find a date for a meeting. It is our ongoing priority to celebrate the workforce as we forge a productive path forward.
We are optimistic that this will best position the organization to ultimately ensure that the festival and Outfest programming can continue to support LGBTQIA+ filmmakers.