Film Festivals in a Post-Coronavirus world

An Analysis

I made a small research before writing this article: Searched for “post coronavirus world”. There were many results of course, but what fascinated me most was the dates: From April to July 2020, people were already talking and writing about Post-Coronavirus days.

On July it stopped. — Is it because the idea was discussed enough? Or because of the dismay which followed the second and more powerful wave? Both could be possible and complementary.

The Film Festival World

In those months, we made many phone calls and had discussions with film festival directors and producers. We were trying to talk to them about our platform, Movies Everywhere. The repeating response which we were getting was “we still hope to conduct a physical (in-person) film festival in the original dates or towards the end of the year (2020).”

Of course, we were trying to tell them about our concept — a hybrid film festival, which is not dependent only on Coronavirus or lockdowns, but is a sustainable way of conducting film festivals, regardless on any pandemic. I will not repeat and elaborate it again, as I wrote about the concept in length here and here.

A State of Denial

The above response (“we still hope to conduct a physical festival soon”) was both frustrating ad amusing. Frustrating, because we knew we have the right solution for them and there was no one to talk to. They were blocked, mentally. Amusing, because the denial was so evident. It was like watching a kid crying and yelling about a candy that just fell in the playground and is now full of dust and sand and not edible anymore: “I WANT THAT CANDY” cries the kid and stomps his feet.
When you grow up, you’ll learn how to manage your anger and connect to reality we say to ourselves quietly. And I told my assistant — In late October they’ll wake up.
Yeah, that’s more or less what happened.

The Day After Corona Dies

Well, Coronavirus cannot die because it’s not a live organism. But since this blog is not about biology and the term is metaphorical, let’s leave it.
From my impression, film festival directors started by hating the very idea of a virtual and online film festival. Being people’s persons, they really suffer from not meeting people physically. Most of us do as well, but for film festival directors (and for filmmakers, producers and actors) it was a real nightmare, that also practically damaged their career and income.

The issue is not only emotional: Festival directors were (and still are) fearing they don’t have the authority to direct the budgets to online events and that the public (or worse — the state and municipality that support them) will get used to the idea that the world can live without them and that nothing bad really happens if this year’s edition doesn’t take place.

You would expect that the instinctive response to the end of pandemic (expected now to occur mid 2021) will make any memory of an online festival extinct.

Surprise

Our analysis and estimation is that virtual film festivals will stay. NOT in the way that we know today (100% online), but definitely to some extent.

There are two main reasons for it:

  • It’s not as bad as we thought it would be. If planned with sensitivity and accuracy, a virtual Q&A can bring both the audience and the host to tears. It’s not exaggerated, I’ve been part of it.
  • It’s the Economy, Stupid (J. Carville, 1992): Sales are just great with online film festivals. Film festival directors might not tell you that, but it’s really good. We know that. Didn’t Marks say that our thoughts and ideas are products of material conditions? — Yes, he definitely said that and he was damn right. Film festival directors will not say goodbye so fast to such a nice revenue stream. Or at least their board will not allow them.

Actually, it is the way we saw it from day 1. This is the reason we in Movies Everywhere pushed from the very beginning the term Hybrid film Festival, or as some call it today — a Parallel Film Festival.

Digital film distributor and founder of Movie Discovery VOD platform, QuickRights and Movies Everywhere . A former documentary filmmaker.

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