Vermonter's Estate Establishes Premier Film Foundation | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Vermonter's Estate Establishes Premier Film Foundation 

State of the Arts

Toward the end of his relatively short life, Vermonter John M. Bissell was largely homebound due to illness. To pass the hours, he watched countless movies at his Hyde Park home. The films proved therapeutic, and Bissell developed a deep respect for the art form that transported him from his suffering.

Bissell wanted to give something back to the medium. Before he passed away in July 2007, he stipulated in his will that his estate go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to helping promote film in Vermont. Recently, the John M. Bissell Foundation received official 501(c)3 nonprofit status. It was then approached by the West Branch Gallery in Stowe to partner in an exhibit of artworks by Austrian Roma artist Ceija Stojka. The foundation will be sponsoring films that, while not made by Stojka, are related to her experience as a Romani in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during World War II.

While this debut initiative doesn’t directly involve Vermont filmmaking, the foundation’s administrators say Bissell envisioned fostering local production.

The trust Bissell left behind is worth approximately $500,000, says Ed French, Bissell’s lawyer, whose Stowe-based firm, Stackpole & French, is administering the foundation. Its mission is pretty flexible; French says it is open to giving grants to a variety of Vermont film projects. Ideally, he adds, administrators would like to subsidize the work of an in-state filmmaker next. It would not be a huge grant, French cautions. The foundation is working with the Vermont Film Commission to refine its goals.

VFC director Joe Bookchin thinks the foundation is a “great idea” — its objectives, after all, dovetail perfectly with those of the commission. To Bookchin’s knowledge, there is no other such film-focused foundation in the state.

Bookchin’s job is not only to attract film production to Vermont, but also to “grow indigenous talent” here. Bissell Foundation grants could help do just that. “Small grants can help seed all kinds of production,” Bookchin says. “It actually makes a big difference.”

Eventually, Bookchin says, he’d like the Film Commission to get involved in giving grants, too. Considering Vermont’s small size, it has a robust filmmaking community. The cost of making movies has decreased dramatically given the availability and relative affordability of digital equipment, so even small grants — say, $5000 — can go a long way.

While the Bissell Foundation is still in its early stages, French and Bookchin anticipate it will serve an important need for the state’s arts community. “It’s one step in supporting a really unique and interesting movement that’s happening in the state,” Bookchin says.

Want to share Bissell's legacy?

Austrian Roma artist Ceija Stojka’s exhibit will open with a reception on November 21 at the West Branch Gallery in Stowe and remain on view through January 1. The films associated with the exhibit are still to be determined.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Bio:
Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation