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What do you want from a film festival?

Hi all –

So, I've been thinking for a while about organising a small British film festival. For context, I'm not really doing any film work these days but run a podcast production company that also does quite a lot of events, and I've run meet-ups and networking events for filmmakers.

I've also seen a lot of the ways that film festivals try and rinse filmmakers, or just generally don't provide an experience that justifies the submission fee. Too many are run as anonymous business, exchanging laurels for money, essentially. On top of that, I think we should all be doing more to cultivate a proper independent film scene here in the UK because I do think we lag behind some of our European and North American counterparts. There are only a handful of serious film festivals in this country (full stop) and only one or two that cater to more independent films. Without wanting to name names or critique anyone in that space, I've never been entirely convinced that they serve the best interests of the filmmakers (which, to some extent, is fair enough, as they're businesses at the end of the day).

I'm exploring the idea of trying to put together a not-for-profit film festival specialising in British indie film, looking to pull together a diverse selection of films that aren't simply playing at a hundred festivals across the globe to empty audiences. Before I get too much into the organisational weeds however, I wanted to ask you all what you would want from an imaginary ideal film festival?

Feel free to answer here and kick off a discussion (I might wade in with my own opinions but also happy to let other thrash it out) or I've made a little survey to fill in (shouldn't take more than 2 mins) just so I know what you'd prioritise:

  • Like your style Nick. Personally I'd like a film fest where participation in some form or other is the rule.

    11 months ago
  • 24 hours Nick and no one has yet commented. Whilst your idea is creditable and it would be great to see you pull it off. The question does arise though as to whether or not festivals, other than a small handful of the most high profile ones that the general public have a passing interest in, play even a minorly significant role in real quantifiable success? For example most of the widely distributed films and broadcasted programmes were not entered into a festival. Is our interest in festivals over hyped? Are they a demanding distraction from more effective strategies?

    Festivals are fun and can create an opportunity for networking within what is very often a very narrow social arena, but particularly amongst struggling new producers, or those still trying to make a profit from their vocation, the question is; just how much are they actually a segway into a viable and successful business? I suspect that the real power of a festival lies in its ability to interest not so much other producers as in it's abolity to interest a general audience who would otherwise have little interest in our activities?

    11 months ago
  • Hi Nick,

    I have been running one in the UK for 5 years now and would be more than happy to chat about pros and cons, how much work goes into it, other people I know who run them etc. Specifically, I made it a mission that the works shown in our festival are actually seen by professional industry folk who have sway. I don’t agree with a laurel for sake of money either.

    And look forward to seeing more conversation on here about it.

    11 months ago
    • That's the issue Angela. It's not so much about the taste and discernment of industry professionals as it's about that of the general viewing public, whose discernment is very often of a higher order than those professionals. I quote myself, "one ought not take ones own case for a generality". The increasing fragmentation of platforms and the increasing democratisation provided by affordable technology, and what can be described as alternative business models, is forcing moguls and their industry familiers to look to audiences for sustainability. The people who buy, or indeed very often don't pay directly, are not much influenced by what goes on in the great majority of film festivals.

      11 months ago
  • Hi John, fair point. Given I have an audience award at the festival and lots of general public, it’s not just about the industry professionals. And I think different festivals offer different things.

    Nick, I go back to my original statement - if it’s useful to chat further I’m always free for a coffee or Skype. Just DM me. Totally up to you.

    11 months ago
    • Hi Angela – yes, a coffee would be great. I'll try and email you now as find the DMing on SP impossible...

      11 months ago