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Cannes 2023 – Marché du Film

Industry Report: Film Festival Trends

The “New Value of Film Festivals” under the spotlight at Cannes’ Marché du Film


CANNES 2023: The panel explored the need for film festivals to redefine their purpose and adapt to the changing landscape of the industry

The “New Value of Film Festivals” under the spotlight at Cannes’ Marché du Film
A moment during the panel

In today's rapidly evolving landscape, the panel discussion on "Refreshed Purpose: The New Value of Film Festivals" organised at the Festivals Hub of the Cannes Marché du Film highlighted the need to redefine the role and significance of festivals. The panellists engaged in a thought-provoking conversation about the core values, financial challenges and future of film festivals.

Leslie Vuchot, CEO and founder of The Festival Agency, set the stage by emphasising the importance of festivals as dynamic platforms for generating ideas and sharing experiences. The panellists agreed that festivals must transcend their traditional role, and become catalysts for change, cultural discourse and social impact. Alexis Juncosa, artistic director of the Luxembourg City Film Festival and president of Europa Film Festivals, highlighted the lack of literacy among funders regarding the significance of festivals, stressing the need to educate and raise awareness about their multifaceted contributions to the film industry.

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The financial challenges faced by film festivals were a key area of discussion. The panellists recognised the positive economic impact that festivals have on local communities as well as their potential for job creation, supporting local suppliers and attracting tourism. Charlotte Hurni, festivals director at FIAPF, emphasised the need to quantify these impacts and develop data that can demonstrate the economic and social benefits to both public and private funders. The panellists lamented the example of Clermont-Ferrand, which has been experiencing budget cuts despite its positive impact, highlighting the need for better understanding and support from funding bodies.

Data collection emerged as a crucial tool for showcasing the economic and social impact of film festivals. The panellists homed in on the importance of collecting accurate data that can demonstrate the benefits that festivals bring to their respective communities. Initiatives such as the Federation of Film Festival Organisers (FFFO) were highlighted as examples of organisations working towards developing good-practice guides and collaborating on public-support initiatives. By gathering comprehensive data, festivals can strengthen their case for financial support and demonstrate their value to funders.

The role of festivals in audience development and partnerships with cinemas was another key aspect under discussion. Carl Spence shared his experience with the Sonoma International Film Festival (where he is artistic director), highlighting the festival's success in securing private funding and its importance in rebuilding audiences. The panellists acknowledged the challenges faced by cinemas and the crucial role that festivals can play in supporting and promoting these venues. Collaboration between festivals and cinemas was seen as mutually beneficial, with the former helping the latter reach larger audiences and cinemas providing year-round support for festivals.

The panellists emphasised the significance of the human experience and live interactions within film festivals. Jennifer Frees, a consultant at Second Order, highlighted the fact that personal interactions create more sustainable and meaningful relationships – not only in the film industry, but across various sectors. While discussing the concept of festivals operating year-round, the panellists acknowledged that engagement with audiences can occur through various platforms and channels, highlighting the example of TIFF's programme utilising a streaming service for film screenings and discussions. This demonstrated that festivals can adapt to the changing needs of audiences while maintaining the essence of human connection.

They also underscored the importance of partnerships and innovative approaches that can benefit both festivals and films. Spence shared an example of partnering with a streaming service to showcase films that had not found distribution in the US market, thus generating revenue and increasing exposure. This exemplified the value that festivals can offer beyond the traditional festival model, supporting filmmakers and ensuring that a diverse range of stories reaches audiences. The panel also touched upon the value of collaborations between festivals themselves. They emphasised the need for gatherings to collaborate and share best practices, forming brain trusts and partnerships that allow for the exchange of information and ideas. By working together, festivals can elevate the overall quality of programming, enhance the audience experience, and contribute to the growth and development of the film-festival ecosystem.

Furthermore, the panellists discussed the importance of the relationship between film festivals and venues. Spence shared his concerns about venues closing down and the challenges that festivals face in finding suitable locations to host their events. He stressed the need for partnerships between festivals and cinemas, pointing out the mutual benefits that can be derived from such collaborations. Festivals rely on cinemas to reach larger audiences, while cinemas benefit from the festival's ability to generate interest and create a sense of community. Building and nurturing these relationships is crucial for both parties' long-term success and sustainability.

Juncosa provided an example of the struggles faced by cinemas in Europe, where iconic theatres are closing despite having an interested audience. He highlighted the need for festivals to contribute to the survival of cinemas and the importance of collaboration and cultural impact. Film festivals can play a vital role in supporting cinemas and creating a thriving film ecosystem by driving audiences to theatres, organising special screenings and promoting the value of the cinematic experience.

Finally, the panellists also recognised the importance of a year-round presence for film festivals. While traditional gatherings have a concentrated period of activity, the participants agreed that festivals should strive to maintain a presence throughout the year. Frees argued that festivals don't necessarily have to exhibit films year-round to engage their audience. She again mentioned the programme launched by TIFF that utilised a streaming service to show films and host discussions, demonstrating that engagement can happen through various platforms and channels. Festivals can thus leverage technology and digital platforms to extend their reach, engage audiences and maintain relevance beyond the confines of a physical event.

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