Bright lights, big kitty: Film fest fundraisers rake in $1.1 million
What would American fashion designer Zac Posen whip up if he were cooking dinner for you and actress Susan Sarandon?
A guest at Artists for Peace and Justice’s ninth annual Festival Gala paid between $25,000 and $60,000 to find out. The designer dinner was one of numerous ultra-glam prizes in a ritzy, celebritystudded charity auction at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Fancy a hike up Peru’s Rainbow Mountain alongside supermodel Petra Nemcova? No problem.
Longing for a VIP night with Paul McCartney in New Mexico, with Paul Haggis and Ben Stiller on either arm as dates? That’s doable. But it’ll cost you. All tallied, last Sunday’s razzle-dazzle list of activities raked in more than $300,000.
Add in the $25,000 price tag for a table, $2,500 for a single ticket, plus sponsorships and pledges, and this year’s fundraising total hit $1.1 million, with all proceeds going to a school the organization built in Haiti.
At one point, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. offered a visit to the set of his next project, serenading the audience with a rendition of “O Canada” and imploring them, of course, to show him the money.
Many of the evening’s hosts — including Stiller, Haggis, Gooding, Morgan Spurlock, Yannick Bisson and George Stroumboulopoulos — pitched in to serve dinner to the wellheeled guests.
This is what it takes to elicit donations during the Toronto International Film Festival, which is piggybacked each year by numerous charitable events, making good use of all the boldface names and media coverage already in town.
“Before the earthquake hit in Haiti (in 2010), half the people didn’t even know where Haiti was,” co-organizer and PR magnate Natasha Koifman said, chatting with the Star by phone in the days before Sunday’s event.
A decade ago, a fundraising event would be fortunate to pull in $50,000, Koifman says. Film festivals weren’t, in her eye, a traditional place to elicit charity. Most attendees were more interested in going to parties than being “particularly philanthropic.”
“Often you see charity events where you spend more on the gala than you’re giving back,” she said, proudly noting that “every single dollar” spent at the annual APJ gala is accounted for.
Using the sheen of the film festival to elicit donations isn’t unique to Artists for Peace and Justice. TIFF itself is a registered charity, and hosts a charitable Soiree the night before the event begins. This year’s featured actress Priyanka Chopra as guest of honour. The festival’s advancement office declined to speak about its charitable endeavours until after TIFF concludes on Sunday.
Of course, not every TIFF-linked charity event piggybacking appears in the form of a gala — nor are they all particularly glamorous. As per tradition since 1998, the Canadian Film Centre founder, director Norman
“Often you see charity events where you spend more on the gala than you’re giving back.” NATASHA KOIFMAN ARTISTS FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE CO-ORGANIZER
Jewison, hosted a barbecue on the first Sunday of the festival to celebrate its alumni. In recent years, the event has morphed into more of a fundraiser — “out of necessity,” spokesperson Cory Angeletti-Szasz explained.
“It’s a very crowded market for fundraising, and we had to make use of the assets we already had,” she said. “We had the barbecue already in place.”
This year’s event promised a glimpse of celebrities like Tatiana Maslany (who appeared this year in Stronger, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal), The Carter Effect director Sean Menard and the cast of Murdoch Mysteries.
“It’s a major fundraising event for us,” Angeletti-Szasz said.
The CFC declined to disclose the amount it raised during 2017’s sunny affair, or previous years, but said it was its second-largest philanthropic event after an annual gala in February. Proceeds went to multidisciplinary programs for film, television, screen acting, music and digital media.
Primarily, she added, the event was there to thank their sponsors and donors.
“They benefit from recognition at the event,” she said, “because it’s a very popular event that draws a lot of individuals who are in town for TIFF.”
A hike in Peru with supermodel Petra Nemcova was on offer at Artists for Peace and Justice’s ninth annual Festival Gala.