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Lessons Learned from Hosting Virtual Film Festivals


Pic courtesy: Getty Images


The show must go on!

As many festivals have gone virtual, it has generated new opportunities as well as posts several challenges for the festival organizers. From our experience in partnering with the few film festivals and helping them host online screenings, we have learned our lessons which we loved to share for the benefits of film festival organizers, who are planning for their online editions.

Licensing

The first and most important problem area in hosting an online festival is to understand the licensing process. You have to acknowledge the apprehension that the majority of the filmmakers have that if their film streams online, they might lose possible distribution deals.


The recommended ways to overcome this problem that we can offer are:

  • streaming the films online for a limited period and not as Video-on-Demand.

  • ensure the screening is available to view in transaction of revenue only.

Applying these two methods will not conflict with the films' rights that most distributors acquire, which is video-on-demand. Live streamings that are transactional in their business model fall under the grey of distribution, and which can potentially put the filmmakers and their distributors at ease.

Estimating Ticket Sales & Early Bird Pricing

If you are experienced in hosting events, you must be aware of the 'bell curve' model. In simple words, this model implies that the majority of people buy their tickets days before the event occurs. Like any event, Film Festivals are too accustomed to experiencing a 'bell curve', but the virtual events have made this 'bell curve' extreme.

Pic courtesy: Ticketflipping.com


In the virtual festivals that we have hosted; the majority of ticket sales occurred just 1 to 2 hours before the screenings. We have concluded that this audience phenomenon has developed as being at home enables them to make their purchase decision literally at the fag hours.

Our suggestion to the festival organizers is not to get nervous if your ticket sales are initially not at the expected goal. On the other hand, we suggest opting for a variable ticket pricing policy such as early-bird ticket pricing, which will increase the tendency of early buying of tickets amongst the audiences. We have experienced that the early-bird ticket sales, can boost up your ticket sales by 30%. This trick may not serve huge ticket sales, but if you feel more comfortable with pre-sales, this tactic will surely help.

Being On-Time & Refund Policy

It is important to convey to the attendees that online screening will be on time. In online festival screenings, there are no manual events like setting up the projector, checking the sound system, or the usual mishaps that usually happen during in-person screenings; so it takes little time to commence the screenings.


We have found many attendees show up 5 to 15 minutes late and sometimes entirely missed the online screenings of the films if they are shorts. It is therefore essential to stress upon punctuality of the attendees.

The next big question arises when someone shows up late or misses the entire screening, will he or she deem eligible for a refund?

The festival organizers must have a strict refund policy in place to handle such situations properly. This will also help the festival organizers in handling the disputes easier.

Panel Discussions

Both the filmmakers and the audience love to interact and participate in discussions about the films. We have developed our technology to focus on making it easy to host panel discussions. Instead of switching between platforms, we allow the filmmakers to start a virtual panel so that the audience can chat questions and participate in the interaction with the filmmakers.


The final takeaways helping the various festival organizers to host online festivals are:

  1. Have a licensing strategy that will not conflict with distributors

  2. Provide some level of protection against copyright theft of content

  3. Prepared for last-minute ticket sales

  4. Offer virtual panel discussions

Artists integrated endures to address the requirements of the film festival organizers through its technological approach and designed for small, resource-limited teams.


And as this essay had begun, so shall it must end with the same line...

The show must go on!