Outfest — the long-running Los Angeles LGTBQ focused film festival — continues to face setbacks, announcing Thursday that it will be scaling back operations, issuing leaves for its staff and postponing the Legacy Awards, its gala fundraiser.
In a statement from the Board of Directors provided to The Music news, the changes come due to “the financial climate of the media and entertainment industry.”
The news of the current cuts comes several weeks after the staff of the non-profit announced plans to unionize. “To succeed in our mission to build a more just and equitable film industry, we must first build that for our organization,” read the note to the Board of Directors from staffers, asking for voluntary recognition of the union. Two days later it was announced that five of Outfest’s twelve employees, all of whom voted to unionize, were notified Thursday that they had been laid off. Additionally, executive director Damien Navarro would be stepping aside for a “minimum” 45-day leave of absence.
At the time, an anonymous union organizer said, “We find it disheartening that, in a time of change and potential growth, the immediate course of action has been one of contraction rather than collaboration.” In a statement given to THR, an Outfest spokesperson said that the “staff was notified that the organization had planned for a reduction of the workforce prior to any communication of unionizing. Outfest is decidedly pro-union.”
As a part of Thursday’s note announcing the latest cuts, the Outfest Board offered that it “has provided the staff with a letter recognizing their union, including having reached out to find a date to meet. It is our continued priority to honor the staff as we forge a productive path forward.”
This year’s Legacy Award was set to take place on Oct. 22 in Los Angeles at the Nueue House, with Shirley MacLaine and Trace Lysette set for honors. Recent honorees have included Janelle Monáe, Billy Porter and Tom Hanks.
Read the full statement from the Board of Directors below.
To ensure that Outfest endures and thrives for the next 40 years in its core mission to champion LGBTQIA+ storytellers and create opportunities, the Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to scale back our operations for the next several months. We will be postponing our Legacy Awards into 2024 and pausing our programming.
Like other nonprofit organizations, Outfest has been severely impacted by the financial climate of the media and entertainment industry. This means the organization will unfortunately also have to initiate leaves for the majority of our staff, while we humbly focus on creating a financial model that prioritizes programming that serves our community, a supportive environment for our staff, and ultimately protects the organization.
The Board proudly supports the staff’s right to unionize and has provided the staff with a letter recognizing their union, including having reached out to find a date to meet. It is our continued priority to honor the staff as we forge a productive path forward.
We are optimistic this will provide the best position for the organization to ultimately ensure Outfest’s festival and programming are able to continue to support LGBTQIA+ filmmakers.