The interesting story of an in-person and its parallel online event
This post/article is not about hybrid events which are held simultaneously. Those events are the subject of many of my other posts, but not this time. Recently we had a special event, which was held primarily as an in-person event for 3 days and then followed an online, smaller event. The interaction between the two events taught us a lot.
We, Movies Everywhere, partnered with Porto/Post/Doc film festival for their industry event.
Industry events in general, unlike the film festival main program, are not intended for the general public, but for the film community. It’s an opportunity for filmmakers to present their work to programmers of other festivals, to distributors, to TV buyers and to potential co-producers.
Porto/Post/Doc film and media festival in Portugal conducts that event once a year, during the festival days, in the month of November.
Around 40 guests are arriving to three days of screenings, one on one meetings and, panels and discussions.
There’s also an online event, where all the screeners are available to guests from all over the world who couldn’t make it to the festival. An additional 250 people.
This is where Movies Everywhere (we) stepped in by providing not just the streaming platform, but also the detailed statistics, at a personal level, of who watched what.
This “who watched what” mechanism is a new product of ours called Screenable and we chose to launch in Porto/Post/Doc 2022.
For us and for the festival if was the first time to work that way and much experience was gained. I’m happy to share it here.
Filmmakers and producers of each of the projects were asked to upload their films to Screenable platform. Unlike in recent years, where the festival had to gather the files and upload them to a server, we provided a self service mechanism in which filmmakers could do everything on their own: open an account, import a screener from Vimeo or upload it directly to our server, add details (metadata, director’s statement, pictures) and then submit them to the festival platform (dedicated to the industry event) with an invite code we provided them.
That process has many advantages, both to the filmmakers and the festival.
I’ll get to this part in the Lessons Learned section.
I joined the festival team at that stage (physically, I went there) to make sure everything goes smooth technically and to allow the festival to edit any part the data submitted. That part is important is order to create a unity of the data presented (for example, that all the textual parts will begin with a synopsis and then length, format and director’s bio) and also to do proofreading, if needed.
The last stage was to add the guests and invite them. Guest, which we internally called “buyers”, are on the viewer side. Those are the industry experts (most of them festival programmers). Their viewership patterns were recorded and were available to the producers and the festival, with the goal was gain insights about the level of interest in those screeners.
The statistics was available to each filmmaker/producer in the same platform from which they uploaded their films — Screenable. From there, they can track viewership on an individual level: the who watched what principle I described above.
Technically, everything went smooth. My arrival to the festival offices and the availability of my team before the event and throughout the festival proved both useful and critical. We solved on the spot issues, that otherwise would take time to explain and fix.
Some filmmakers didn’t manage to upload their screeners to the platform. They were waiting for the last minute and created pressure.
We anticipated it and uploaded the videos for them. That is one important point to remember and acknowledge: when there’s an in-person event, people tend to forget and dismiss its online companion.
But this behavior is absolutely irrational. In reality, it’s should be the total opposite: while the in-person event had 40 guests, the online event had 260 participants, all of them decision makers, some of them seniors in the industry and representatives of vey big film festivals. That’s more 6 times more! Ignoring them because they were not resent in the in-person event was an emotional decision.
Can anything be done about it? — Definitely yes: the festival can remind the filmmakers, long in advance, to upload their files. An online option should NOT be treated like a secondary option. I’ll mention another useful method shortly, in the Engagement section.
Nevertheless, some filmmakers did manage to upload their films. That released the festival team from the tedious burden of having to deal with downloads and uploads. I must also add that I see this with many film festivals I work with: they receive endless download links, some of them have expired. With others, the password is erroneous or the filmmaker forgot to allow the download option (from Vimeo). That means another back and forth with the filmmaker, the distributor or the post-house.
As an automation freak, it’s hard for me to see it. Don’t work like slaves, provide the filmmaker upload links!-:)
We, by the way, offer that on Movies Everywhere and Screenable right out of the box.
But not only the festival saved time with the need to download and upload the files. The filmmaker themselves, when creating an account on Screenable and uploading their film to it, could immediately track viewership. That means that they don’t have to wait for data from the festival. Again: efficiency and automation. Don’t be slaves, remember? -:)
That was our weakest point. Let’s put it this way: the platform didn’t reach its full potential. Many more guests who received an invitation to watch missed that opportunity.
What can be done about it?
I suggested the festival the following solution for the next edition:
Create an online opening event. Exactly as you would for an in-person event. That means sending invitations and conducting an online event in which the festival director will present the event and its characteristics for this year, show excerpts from some of the movies, have an interview (live or prerecorded) with one of the filmmakers etc. All that, in a production environment (lighting, sound recording, multi camera production) that will make it feel like a TV show.
My assumption is that even if only 20 invitees (out of the 260 guests) arrive to that event, it will create buzz that will attract attention to the online screenings.
I hope to edit this article with a true implementation of the above -:)