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On March 15, the City Council unanimously approved the San Antonio Local Filmmakers Grant (LFG), a $25,000 grant funded by the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) to make a feature film in San Antonio. Both local first-timers and veteran directors are eligible for the award, but there is a catch: they must already have $25,000 in funding commitments and the movie must be in its pre-production stage. All applications must be submitted to the City Clerk's office by 4 p.m. on Friday, June 8, 2012.

"San Antonio has a great wellspring of creative talent, particularly when it comes to filmmaking," Mayor Julián Castro said in an OCA press release. "This is a positive investment that will increase the exposure of the local film industry and the many talented individuals who are involved with it."

Anyway I look at it, I agree with the Mayor. But, off-the-record, some local filmmakers expressed their concern about one aspect of the grant: it appears that the grant targets "commercial," rather than artistic, projects.

The concerns started with the language in that March 15 press release, which explained that "applicants will be rated on Artistic & Production Excellence, Commercial Viability, and Financial Position" (emphasis added). In addition, the release quoted OCA director Félix Padrón saying that "business development goes hand in hand with supporting the arts in San Antonio." What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, in my opinion. The history of art is full of examples of great works that also excelled in the money department. And, as much as I love obscure, daring, uncompromising films, it's about time San Antonio filmmakers shook up the system with a superb production that's seen by more than just a handful of people.

You can download the guidelines and application at sahearts.com, but those needing more info should show up at one of the two informational sessions being held about the grant. The first gathering is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the International Center's La Orilla del Río Ballroom (203 S St. Mary's, 3rd floor), and the second is being held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at the Central Library (600 Soledad). Be there.

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