Film Festivals Raise Their Profiles With Digital Platforms

Movie festivals aren’t limited to a one or two week annual event anymore as they’ve all gone
digital. “Film festivals now are all about mobility and moviegoers want 24/7 access on all platforms since they can’t always travel to the festival location,” according to Sebastien Perioche, CEO of Eurocinema On Demand. Geoff Gilmore, chief creative officer of the Tribeca Film Festival and former longtime director of the Sundance Film Festival, concurred. “Everyone has to be an online festival now,” he emphasized.

Both appeared on a panel during the Digital Hollywood conference on Friday in New York. As moderator Eric Kohn of IndieWire noted, “the delivery methods for film festivals have changed radically in recent years.” Panelists discussed the impact of transmedia platforms, such as video on demand, social media, Web series, gaming, and YouTube’s new online video channels.

Key takeaways after the jump.
Digital outlets extend film festivals’ reach: “Films used to be theatrically-driven, and now it’s digital. But it’s not all about delivery, it’s about ways of using the festival for visibility,” Gilmore observed. “Not every indie film is bought by Harvey [Weinstein] and lives happily ever after.”

Video on demand (VOD) has caught on with the movie-going audience: Eurocinema started as an on-demand movie channel distributed in the U.S. and now programs film festivals to be available on demand on cable TV. Their recent offering, the Scandinavian Film Festival, includes twelve films over five months. Gilmore reported that Tribeca started providing VOD to its audience two years ago.

Social media has not been universally adopted by filmmakers: Perioche said his company actively uses social media and the filmmakers comment on their recent movies. However, Gilmore cautioned, “Most filmmakers don’t understand how to use social media, and they still want a traditional theatre opening.”

Web series now are higher quality and have gained traction: Terence Gray, executive director of the New York Television Festival, observed, “Talent who may have made Broadway plays in the past are making web series now. Last year one of our projects involved a video Skype between two characters and we struck a deal to make an eight minute pilot for the festival.”

Gaming, already popular with corporate brands, also has potential here: Gilmore said that Tribeca introduced the video game “L.A Noire” at the 2011 festival, and he sees good prospects for non-narrative story telling in the future. “The most interesting
work happens in these other arenas, and festivals shouldn’t marginalize these experimental platforms.”

Google’s new online video channels, to be added to YouTube next year, represent another option: The panelists agreed that until now YouTube has failed to develop high end content. But as Gilmore noted, Google’s recently announced 100 new video channels opens up another digital distribution platform for short-form content. He reported that Tribeca has been approached by Google regarding next year’s festival.