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Record Numbers at Virtual Festivals and What it Means for the Filmmaker

Virtual Film Festivals Receiving Record Attendance Numbers

Unless there is a global pandemic, there’s usually a film festival going on somewhere in the world. In 2021, a year characterised by the pandemic, technology is taking film festivals online and many are receiving record audiences.

In February, the Sundance Film Festival released its attendance records which racked up more than 600,000 views in its virtual format, more than 2½ times the pre-pandemic, in-person event in 2020.

Earlier this month, the Berlinale’s European Film Market (EFM) reported a successful online edition with the 5 day event seeing upto 12,000 participants from 131 countries taking part.

Last week saw the Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) close with Rachel Carey’s black comedy Deadly Cuts. Festival Director, Grainne Humphreys said, “This year’s event has surpassed my expectations in terms of numbers and reach and I’m delighted the programme has connected with new audiences across Ireland and around the world.”

What does this all mean for the independent filmmaker?

Whilst many would agree that nothing could replicate the in-person experience of cinema going and attending film festivals, virtual attendance numbers for this year so far, are highlighting the potential to reach new audiences. This makes them even more appealing to independent filmmakers trying to reach a global audience. Though that’s not to say that virtual events will be an easier or more attainable distribution channel. With the accessible technology provided to us by the likes of Final Cut, Premiere and iMovie, there are now more films made in 1 year than in the first decades of cinema combined. So, how can independent films stand out from the crowd and gain traction?

Festivals will often pay screening fees to include your film in their program. However, they’ll only do this if the film adds value to the festival itself (e.g. the film premiered at a notorious festival or it has a notable name cast).

If your film isn’t The Mauritanian starring Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch and you’re not able to premiere at a prestigious festival like the Glasgow Film Festival (and is now being released to Amazon Prime on 1st April), then focus your efforts on building your audience. From the moment you decide to create a film, the audience should be front and centre of all of your considerations. Take your audience on the filmmaking journey with you by sharing photos and videos of the filming process, blog about new filming equipment you come across, and share interviews with the cast. Use the channels you own to their full potential whether that be social media, email marketing or your own website. Don’t fall foul of forgetting about SEO. This is about getting your film ranked highly in search results and doesn’t just work where Google is concerned but can also help the film to automatically get views on YouTube.

While you focus on building your audience and optimising content, take advantage of some of the free and low cost sites available to submit your film to review sites and festivals. Here’s our favourite 5: 1. FilmFreeway

Virtual festivals definitely look set to stay, even as part of a hybrid film festival. Using the technology and increased number of platforms available, filmmakers building their audience and engaging with online conversations can place themselves in good stead for getting noticed and being seen as part of this evolving hybrid landscape.

Written by Lauren Goddard Director Goddard Digital

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