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Film festival president asks for $25,000

The president of the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival asked the Common Council for $25,000 last week.

William Cowell said the five-year-old festival can't continue financially as it has.

"Up until now we've been using volunteers, interns. We need money into this. We lost so many good people because we couldn't pay them," Cowell told the aldermen. "I can do a lot with a little money."

The festival has had no connection with Lockport in the past, but Cowell promised if the city gave him cash, he'd line up film showings in the Palace Theatre and celebrity appearances in the city.

"I'll steer three different celebrity events here for sure," he said.

Cowell, a North Tonawanda resident, said Lockport is the first municipality he's asked for money. Most of the movies are shown in Buffalo's Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, but there have been showings in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.

"It sounds like the other municipalities aren't giving $25,000," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.

"To be honest, Buffalo hasn't been very participating," Cowell told the Council. "I'm from Niagara County. Maybe that has something to do with it."

The festival normally is held in April, but this year there's also a shorter fall version from Sept. 22 to 25.

"The schedule is already printed, and Lockport isn't on it," Tucker said. "I think we're talking about April [2012]."

Cowell tried to entice the Council by telling of his encounters with assistants to Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio.

He said the celebrities on his next festival's agenda are Evander Holyfield, Tom Sizemore, Tara Reid, Cloris Leachman and Christine Baranski.

"I can't bring the festival here without money," Cowell said. "I can't keep diving into these cities without getting something back."

NTCC President John Percy said in an interview that his organization won't fund the film festival. He said he doesn't want to set a precedent of financing events.

"We're not a funding organization," Percy said. "We're really in the business of tourism promotion and marketing. We'd promote someone else's event."

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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