I'm Tommy José Stathes, a film archivist, historian, and college teacher specializing in early animated films. I've spent nearly twenty years archiving hundreds of the earliest cartoons ever made. Since 2009, I've also been giving public film screenings called Cartoon Carnivals, often with real 16mm film projection—that is, until the pandemic hit.
Some of my friends, colleagues, and Festival-goers have asked how they could help me deal with the loss of income. This GoFundMe is the answer.
If you've found this page, you likely already know a bit about what I did in my 16mm Cartoon Carnival film series —and soon hope to do again. Back when I was a college student, the series began as a way of sharing my growing 16mm film collection with the public, and also as a means of earning some needed pocket money. That money was almost always put into acquiring more films, or maintaining the ones I already owned.
Everything changed in 2017. I was forcibly displaced from my lifelong home, and I could no longer live in an apartment large enough to store my film archive. Since then, the archive has been forced to exist in a very costly, climate controlled storage facility. While that's what the films need to survive in good condition, it's been a difficult cost burden for me, all along.
From 2017 onward, the Cartoon Carnival series became the main method by which this new storage expense would be covered. The Carnival proceeds didn't always cover everything, but some was always better than none.
Then in March 2020, Covid lockdowns forced the cancellation of my regularly scheduled Carnival screenings. I was forced to learn how to recreate the Carnival as pay-per-view, virtual livestream screenings. I became a completely solo host and projectionist, streaming live from my own home.
At first this was great: I could save my series (and income) from a complete hiatus, as well as share the streaming events with new viewers in other states and countries.
But it wasn't sustainable. Two beloved family members had been suffering from cancer; one passed last May , and others in my nuclear family were incapacitated by various chronic illnesses. I was needed—and am now still on call—for constant day-to-day elder care responsibilities.
Then my next semester of college teaching began. While I was glad to have any form of teaching work, and income from it, during the pandemic, the workload for a virtual learning experience wound up being double or triple my normal workload.
The emotional toll of living alone and doing all of this from home, during a pandemic, thrust me into various medical issues of my own, including clinical depression and extreme fatigue. That's why you haven't seen any more virtual Cartoon Carnivals since September of last year; I had to stop them.
I'm working hard now to improve my surroundings and condition, with the help of some family, friends, and professionals. I still try to keep a positive attitude—and things are starting to turn around. Regular, in-person Cartoon Carnival screenings are now finally in the works again for some of our favorite New York City venues, and I'm planning to reintroduce online Carnivals—this time, most likely only as pre-recorded Video-On-Demand (VOD) programs—in the near future, as well.
Nevertheless, I've lost a huge amount of funding in this past year; and since September, I've been forced to use my relatively small teaching earnings entirely towards my storage costs. That's put a significant strain on other areas of my life.
As of this writing, it's been 15 months since the in-person Carnivals had to stop. The later live streaming and VOD sales covered about three months' expenses—so the purpose of this GoFundMe campaign is to recoup the 12 months of losses since then, including the following costs:
• Monthly film archive storage fees (costs increase twice annually; average $500/month)
• Livestream and VOD program hosting fees, to keep my past streaming programs available ($160/month)
Although new events will soon be starting up, as I mentioned earlier, these events do not always cover all monthly expenses. It will take a few months worth of new events to balance out somewhat, beyond recouping the past year's losses. In light of this fact, the below expenses have also been factored into the fundraising goal, to reflect 6 months worth of events, moving forward:
• Costs of advertising new events as they're created (approx. $150/mo)
• Costs of hired help for recording & editing VOD versions of these new events, for our online followers elsewhere (approx. $200/mo)
I can't wait to get back on track with new events, both in terms of brick-and-mortar screenings *and* making online VOD versions of these new physical events available for our friends elsewhere. Your support with this fundraiser will help that happen, and will reverse a great deal of financial burden that I've faced over the past year. Thanks a million for your kindness in helping me—I truly appreciate it!