Former head of IFP speaks out

Earlier this month Jane Minton, Executive Director of IFP Minnesota, an organization supporting independent filmmakers and photographers, was dismissed by the organization’s board after serving it for 25 years.

While for the past week Minton has remained quiet about the controversial firing, today she decided to speak out, posting this letter on her Facebook account:

Dear Friends and IFP Members,

Many of you have been asking for answers regarding my termination last week from IFP. I’ve maintained my silence, hoping to come to a reasonable separation agreement with the organization I’ve served for 25 years. Now that such an agreement has been denied to me, I owe you an explanation.

First, IFP Minnesota is healthy and stable. Despite the challenges for most nonprofits in this tough economy, as of August 10th, IFP’s Business Director projected a one-month cash shortfall ($15,000 of the $750,000 budget) in May 2013; a shortfall that I would have easily addressed long before that date.

One reason for the shortfall flows from a small decrease in the revenue from the education program, which is down $10,000 in 2012 from its heyday in 2009, when it earned $80,000. Expertly programmed by Education Director Reilly Tillman, the education program remains healthy, viable and responds to the education needs of beginners as well as advanced filmmakers. This year’s Producers Conference was the best ever.

Despite the overall vitality of IFP, the Executive Committee brought their concerns of impending financial crisis to me in late June. I proposed ways to reconfigure the organizational structure of IFP, including focusing my energies full time on fundraising. However, it was clear to me that the Executive Committee wasn’t looking for solutions. It was looking for a scapegoat.

It now appears that board/staff protocols may have been violated, and that a plan to oust me had been afoot for months, surfacing June 27th with that meeting called by the Executive Committee. This is not unusual. It happens in not-for-profits: a board member joins an organization out of enthusiasm and a few years down the road believes he or she could run it better. Everyone serving on a board would do well to read an old but still true chestnut by Bruce Dayton, “Governance is Governance.”

I am leaving IFP Minnesota in a stable financial position, and more importantly as I leave, the organization is fulfilling its mission of serving filmmakers, photographers, emerging artists, and film and photography. I am proud of the 2002 merger we accomplished with the Media Artists Access Center, the vibrant Youth Media Program, the McKnight Fellowship Program, Cinema Lounge, MNTV, the Photography Exhibition Program, IFP’s member services-including Fiscal Sponsorship and the EFlash, the annual fundraiser with over 500 attending this year, among other accomplishments. I’m also proud of the millions of dollars we have raised to put IFP Minnesota and our media arts community on the map.

My dismissal at the hands of this Executive Committee is not the way I wanted to leave IFP Minnesota. But that is the hand that has been dealt to me. After receiving a proposed separation agreement on August 14th, which began with the words: “You agree that you have resigned,” I retained legal counsel so that I could negotiate on a level playing field with the Executive Committee to preserve my reputation, my legacy at IFP and to protect my family financially upon my termination.

As soon as I hired counsel, I was informed by IFP’s attorney at Lommen Abdo that there would be no further negotiation of any kind and that I was not to return to my office, effective August 17. I worked on and built an organization for 25 years, and on August 17, it was determined that I would have nothing to show for it.

The manner in which I was treated was heartless, cold, mean, and calculating. I know well that all businesses, nonprofits included, need to be run like businesses. But the reason some of us spend our careers working with nonprofits is HEART. What you don’t make in salary, you gain in a common mission and collegiality. This has been missing in my recent situation.

That said, what’s made all these years worthwhile for me are the people in the community-filmmakers, photographers, educators, IFP instructors, vendor companies such as Cinequipt, Blue 60, Fredrikson & Byron, and Pixel Farm, to name but a few, funders such as McKnight and Jerome Foundations, volunteers and interns, board members, and members.

The filmmakers and photographers in Minnesota are so talented, giving, and tenacious — you’re inspiring, and you will continue to inspire me. I’m grateful for every minute I’ve had to interact and work with you, and I deeply appreciate the many comments, emails and phone calls over the past week or so. Ah, there was the heart! Thank you!

I read that Andrew Peterson is taking over the reins of IFP as Interim Executive Director. Andrew is great and I have much respect for him. I also have deep respect, admiration and affection for the remaining staff at IFP. They’re brilliant and dedicated. The IFP Board has a wealth of talent and I’ve enjoyed working with them. Many of IFP’s board members have given generously to IFP, and I’ve benefitted from their wisdom. I wish the board, Andrew and IFP well. But most of all, dear filmmakers and photographers, I wish you the whole wide world of success.