New initiatives by film festivals for the future of cinema
by Ernesto Leotta
- CANNES NEXT: In its final stretch, NEXT 2015 gathered together four film festival representatives in order to hear the latest about their initiatives for the future of cinema
All good things must come to an end, as they say – and unfortunately, NEXT is no exception. This journey into the future of film made its last stop yesterday, 20 May, with its final round table at the Palais des Festivals (K Hall). Here, The Festival Agency CEO and founder Leslie Vuchot moderated a debate concerning the way film festivals are gearing up to help films reach their audiences, supporting their distribution and developing new business models.
But how to stimulate viewers' interest? Each of the four panellists gave his or her personal answer to the question.
"We started out as a small, traditional festival," recalled Josef Kullengård, coordinator at Malmo Arab Film Festival, "but as time went by, we grew bigger, and the key was mixing our audience groups: we found out that there was a huge demand for Arab films in our country, so we're always trying to reach new audiences every year."
Jarod Neece's experience was rather different. The SXSW producer and senior programmer addressed the quasi-reborn festival's early years, when it was created in 1987 as a way of boosting Austin's economy after spring-breakers were gone. "None of us are cinephiles; we're just film and TV lovers who have been looking for unique stories, or stories told in a unique way, since 1994. SXSW's mission is to connect to the freshest and newest films. Our audiences will connect accordingly."
Göteborg Film Festival's Johanna Koljonen's approach was more focused on the festivalgoers' experience: "I believe the best distribution strategy is investing in those attending the festival screening, as it means they already love the film. For this reason, I think festivals should be the most comfortable and viewer-friendly experience ever, possibly with couches instead of seats, as well as food and drink. Relaxing might also stimulate communication between strangers sitting next to each other, and that's the best a film can get."
Word of mouth is also the fast lane to audience engagement for Jakub Duszynski, Gutek Film’s head of acquisitions. "The traditional way of bringing films to our marketplace was buying them at festivals," Duszynski began, "but then we asked ourselves, 'What about delegating the power of choice to the audience?' The next thing you know, Festival Scope is there. It's an online platform we created, where people vote and eventually award their favourite film from among a selection of ten. The jury is made up of common people, 50 members who discuss, vote, share and make our relationship with audiences stronger than ever!"