For a university project, I wrote an international feature asking Do International Film Festivals Need More Recognition?. Unfortunately I contacted Bruno Chatelin, Managing Editor of filmfestivals.com, too late for me to include his response in my feature before its deadline. Still, Bruno was kind enough to answer my questions, and even to publish my interview on his website. Read it below:
Why do you think there are so many film festivals?
They are now relatively easy to set up, with many tools, software, service providers
Internet has played a major part in that development (and companies like ours, specialized in festival business have contributed spreading the word and the best practices)
Benchmarking has become easier, and is now structured through such events as the international Film Festival Summit (I hava a role in that organization as advisory board member and chair peson at the Europe Summit)
Brands, (sponsors) and cities’ tourist offices have realized the potential impact, in many cases it is now part of their communication strategy.
Do you think film festivals recently have more competition with each other? In relation to the question above, and with the likes of Dubai film festival advertising themselves on UK TV, I can’t help but presume times are getting harder for them?
Festival strategies vary largely according to whom sponsors them and what their main focus is.
Festivals have a distinctive way to sell something unique (ambiance, city, date, program) that elevates them above competition
Competition is fierce for major festivals only (cannes versus berlin venice…)
The true challenge for a festival is to find sponsors: when crisis hits economy sponsor budget are among first spending to be cut (staying on the front line) most festivals in crisis had to deal with cut back in budget of 20 to 40 or even 50%. That is where they sometimes compete (for instance within institutional sponsorships….)
Large megapoles cities have scores of different festivals
LA must have 50 at least….
What do you think film festivals mean to their community? Is this a main reason they are running in most popular cities?
Sometimes they mean nothing when the fest director does a poor job at involving communities, retailers, youngsters, students, local volunteers…
Most cases the festival is (for the residents) an occasion to peak at “VIP film people” serve as volunteers (young students or unemployed)
A chance to see film they would not see otherwise, a chance to gather with other members of the communities.
In best cases the city takes its part and organizes some events in conjunction with the festival organizers (for instance mayor’s screenings in Cannes, on the beaches, in specific Youth houses…
Local sponsors use the festivals to invite their key local clients who will enjoy a moment of fame, dressed up on the red carpet…
Do you think it’s better for international festivals to have more recognition and place themselves alongside the word-class festivals, or if they are more independent?
In any case each festival NEEDS an international recognition and larger visibility outside their boundaries (of course this is a measure of their ambitions) When dealing with a sales agent to acquire screenings rights the programmer has an easier when the festival has worked on the international relations.
Playing independent, closed circle (asking friends distributors for films, without bothering about internationals) will catalog as a garage film event, its fame will never cross borders, no potential for growth…
International festivals must promote (this is where we help them, we have a great track-record at helping launching festivals (including Dubai for instance which we helped)
Do you think film festivals are still as relevant with today’s media habits? Consumerism has changed a lot, has this effected such organizations?
Yes they have become relevant for a new purpose: provide a window for films that no one would ever see elsewhere because they are pure “festival films” rather than “commercial films with a distribution potential”
On a few occasions festivals contribute to cast a light on a new talent, a gem that stands above the usual expectations and continues it’s path to the public, with awards, recognition and a distribution deal.
I have contributed in my past career to such discoveries with “Boyz’n The Hood” a first film by John Singleton for which the Studio Chief at Sony told me he was impressed by “festival magic” and was about to raise the domestic estimate by $20 M USD (he was pretty right, Box office reached 54MUSD vs earlier estimate of 30 BEFORE its Cannes presentation
And finally, do you think smaller festivals such as Vampire Film Festival which is very specialized, have as much relevance as, say, Cannes? Or do you think smaller festivals won’t be long lived with not reaching the same scope of people?
Genre festivals are essential for the films in that category (fantasy, horror, science fiction…) which has a hard time on the market
Genre festivals provide extraordinary human experiences, creating a bond within viewers through discoveries with a grand sense of decorum, personalization, settings, party, costumed events… a truly unique atmosphere which transforms every viewer into a player.
In larger festivals, viewers are not players, rather spectators of film and PR-Power Play on the red carpet
Cannes is really different from any other event since it is the largest with about 20.000 film professionals attending, a concentration of decision makers unlike anything else, the most covered event after the Olympics (4000 media). Well it is HUGE of course BUT there is no bond in cannes, just nuclear networking possibilities.
In my own view the festival is not so important as its market and the media exposure it brings…