Tropfest Founder On Festival Crash: 'The Truth Will Come Out'

1 March 2016 | 1:55 pm | Staff Writer

John Polson speaks out.

John Polson, director of short film festival Tropfest, has spoken out regarding the controversy surrounding the long-running event which was nearly cancelled last November due to an alleged mismanagement of funds and has confirmed that he is still considering legal action against Tropfest Festival Productions. 

In an interview with Mumbrella, Polson said, "I am continuing to work with my lawyers on it almost every day."

"We’re yet to get to the bottom of exactly what happened, but I'm confident the truth will come out."

The festival was eventually saved by an insurance company and went ahead last month, however Polson claims there are still other companies who are owed money by TFP.

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"As far as I know, many people and companies are still owed money from TFP and none of those debts have been paid," he said. 

Though there have been reports that TFP's Michael Laverty is planning to take legal action against Polson for saying there was a "terrible and irresponsible mismanagement of Tropfest funds", the festival director says he stands by his comments. 

"There have been various threats of legal action against me but none have commenced, to my knowledge," Polson said.

"Yes, I stand by my conclusion and stand by the statements I made, which were made based on indisputable documentation."

Polson said that festival organisers are currently discussing whether Tropfest will return this December or February 2017 and that they hope to finalise dates in the coming months. 

"If there is a silver lining here, it is that these events have re-engaged me in Tropfest in a way I haven’t been engaged for several years at least," Polson said. 

"At a personal level, it’s reminded me of how important Tropfest and its original mission still is to me and to many other people.

"I have every intention of being very hands-on in the restructure — including greater financial oversight — and our direction for the foreseeable future."

Interestingly however, Polson said the recent Tropfest crowdfunding campaign which failed to reach its target of $100,000 was a "mistake".

"Speaking honestly, the Pozible campaign was put together hastily at a time when we were (understandably) very distracted with trying to rebound from November’s disaster and stage the February event," he conceded.

"We received some criticism on Pozible early on which, once I saw it, I actually agreed with.

"I think people wanted to support Tropfest, but they wanted to feel their money was going towards something more tangible than an internal review – like staging the actual event."

Polson confirmed that organisers are considering new ways to attract more money outside of bringing in new sponsors, with assistance by management consultancy EY. 

"I'm expecting to explore some potential new revenue streams via our EY review but they won’t include charging general audiences for attending or filmmakers higher entry fees," Polson said.

"We may explore things like VIP packages for fans who don't want to wrestle with the crowds and maybe want to enjoy some food or drink, but the majority of space at Tropfest will always be free. 

"And we have lots of other ideas we’ll be exploring for raising revenue so we can become more sustainable, but in a way that won’t change the DNA of what Tropfest is."