Does the film festival of today support what the film festival philosophy purports– that the power of storytelling and the independent film draws the community closer together? Can it demonstrate an ability to grow steadily and become highly desirable for the next generation of filmmakers, solidifying regional film industries thus continuing a positive economic impact? I believe it’s possible.
The past several years have shown a transition, a makeover of what a film festival grows up to be and the film festival experience it offers to filmmakers, film lovers as well as the film festival collective. Embracing new technology, welcoming accomplished film festival organizers, and respecting their know-how, bring together an ability for recognizing valuable skills volunteers have to offer thus creating a solid foundation for future film festival experiences. Utilizing honed skills in the best possible way ensures that film festivals can evolve into a solid cultural and viable entity contributing to the economic development of its local businesses and arts community.
Many film festivals start out in the Hollywood celebrity-centered style with glitz and glamour, red carpet, Gala Opening Night, a weekend of box office-standard films, after-party receptions, awards ceremonies, etc. having the disadvantage of often becoming an insular garden club variety event or a founding person’s vanity project– a same old, same old, annual weekend that exhausts everyone– the festival organizers, their volunteers, filmmakers, donors/supporters/sponsors, and finally the audience. While I have seen many changes in the higher tier of festivals, the ones remaining entrenched in the old ways, I note, may limp along in its entrenched faded glam and dreadful mediocrity.
Not to say that receptions, after-parties, filmmaker recognition are not valued and looked forward to in a real connection between artists and patrons. They absolutely have a place e in balanced programming where such seismic shifts in the industry due to the global pandemic and the streaming platforms upturned the traditional approach used to entice and engage film festival audiences.
2020 was a tough year for anyone who follows the circuit as I have for the past fifteen years. I look forward to a return to in-person screenings, events, and venues. Still remaining cautious. Optimistic. There is always a parking space. We can still experience a Kubelka moment. That’s why I can’t help but live for the film festival experience. It lasts much longer and with greater satisfaction. Stay tuned.