AFCOOP, CFAT and the AFFA no longer under one roof

Moving pictures: Three of the city’s premiere film arts organizations used to be under one roof but not any more. Here are the plusses and minuses of a new location

Martha Cooley says AFCOOP’s new location has potential for filmmakers. photo Melissa Dubé
Martha Cooley says AFCOOP’s new location has potential for filmmakers. photo Melissa Dubé

The CBC Radio building on Sackville Street may not be the prettiest edifice in Halifax, but for the past 17 years it has been home to some of the most well-known film and video organizations in the province.

So when it was announced last September that the building would be undergoing a transformation into a residential space, it was the end of an era for the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, the Centre for Art Tapes and the Atlantic Film Festival Association.

In the 12 years that AFCOOP and CFAT have been located at the CBC, the strength of local filmmaking in the city grew due to the shared opportunities the three organizations experienced while in the same location. "It was just a natural exchange between the two organizations," says Martha Cooley, programs and membership coordinator at AFCOOP. "When someone came to visit us, we would tell them about CFAT. If someone was just dropping by to see what AFCOOP was about, we could send them upstairs to see CFAT and CFAT would do the same for us."

"We all sort of fed off one another. We worked on different events, co-sponsoring back and forth and using a lot of equipment with each other," says Lia Rinaldo, festival director of the AFFA, whose organization accepted submissions from members of AFCOOP and CFAT through the years.

"It's something we really miss already, not having the other organizations in the building with us," says Mireille Bourgeois, interim director of CFAT, now in the Roy Building. "There was an important camaraderie between the organizations that we were all going through the same thing."

But even though the groups are now scattered around the city, Rinaldo says she plans to work with CFAT and AFCOOP in the future. "There is a lot of synergy between our organizations. It won't stop because we're in different places, it just means we can't run upstairs anymore," she says.

The AFFA, which moved two years ago from the interior of the CBC building to the main level on South Park Street, signed a two-year lease in the building that won't expire until December 2013, when CBC plans to fully exit.

CFAT's new headquarters are only for the immediate future. "Ironically, we kind of are in the same situation we had at the CBC building, but we were prepared for that," says Bourgeois of the Starfish Properties building, slated for demolition in 2012.

For Greg Morris-Poultney, executive director of AFCOOP, the new location at 5663 Cornwallis Street offers more access to Halifax filmmakers. "CBC was great because it had strong security, but it was still a process to get in. At street level, it's much more accessible and has a community feel to it," he says.

But even though the organizations aren't under the same roof anymore, they say the move will provide new opportunities, including the possibility of working with other not-for-profits in the city.

"There is potential here," says Cooley, "for us to be more than we were."

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