The often-beleaguered Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, which has run into money troubles in recent years, has quietly installed a new executive director in recent months.
Carol Kimery, a 2010 graduate of UALR with a degree in marketing, was hired as executive director of the HSDFI in November. She had been the interim director since mid-October.
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has been held annually in October for 20 years. There were fears the festival wouldn't materialize this fall, after the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau refused its annual $5,000 in support because the institute was in arrears on bills dating back to 2010.
The Malco Theater, home to the festival, is mortgaged to a local bank, and the institute has often been late on its payments. In April, citing more than $30,000 in debt, which then-director Dan Anderson blamed on overspending for filmmaker hospitality and staff costs, the institute furloughed all its employees.
Kimery hopes to turn that around. She worked in sales for 13 years, including a stint in New York, before going back to college at UALR to get her degree.
She said she got interested in film while serving as an intern to Little Rock Zoo spokesperson Susan Altrui.
Altrui has produced a number of short films in Little Rock. Kimery served as a production assistant on one of those films, and has since worked on the new Animal Planet reality show "American Stuffers" (see this week's Televisionist column for more), which was filmed in Romance.
Kimery said saving the Malco and recruiting more volunteers will be a big part of getting the festival out of trouble. Anderson, who was also the festival director, has taken a leave of absence, Kimery said, and is "working on another venture," and the majority of the members on the festival board, including the chairman, are new this year.
Kimery will take on Anderson's old job as well as her duties as head of the institute until the outcome of several grant applications is known.
Associate festival director Jim Miller will work on a volunteer basis. Kimery said that she hopes to eventually hire more employees after grants come in.
"We've restructured," Kimery said. "We're going through everything and making sure our i's are dotted and our t's are crossed. ... Some things fell by the wayside." She hopes to make people trust in the festival again — not only that it will survive, but that it is worth their volunteer hours and donations.
"People shouldn't believe what they've read," she said. "We've got a brand new board of directors, we've got a new chairperson and a new executive director. They've got to trust that it's not going to fall apart — that it's going to thrive and it's going to get better. They've got to trust us enough to grant us the grants and donate their time and money."