Thursday, November 03, 2005
COVERING A FILM FESTIVAL
With some great -- and some less-than-perfect -- experiences at film festivals, and other conferences, gatherings, and meetings, I've developed a notion for some of the things I'd like to have available when I attend.
A film festival is intended to serve several interests:
- The local audience (wants to enjoy interesting movies and panels).
- The film makers (want deals, publicity and contacts).
- The film businessmen (want film pickups and other deals, publicity, and contacts).
- The local businesses (want customers and good publicity),
- The press (wants good stories).
The following suggestions should help optimize the experience for all these groups.
For watching movies, some of the most important factors are:
- Giving people fair access to the movies, with some help for special groups, but not excluding the general public from being able to see the films that are most in demand.
- Making it easy to buy tickets.
- Providing reasonable information about new films to allow ticket buyers to make a considered decision about which films to see.
- Making the film ticket buying experience easy -- both with a good ticket-buying program online, and a convenient ticket office with enough help to avoid long lines.
- At the movie theater, not keeping people waiting too long, especially in the rain, and allowing reasonably fair access to good seats, as well as convenient sales of last-minute tickets.
- It goes almost without saying (except too often it needs to be said) that the projection should be bright, in focus, and without problems, and the sound should be in sync, loud enough, and clear.
- There should be good directions for people who drive.
- There should be easy parking at each site; the parking rules should allow you to watch all the movies you want (a one hour parking zone is not helpful; and a two hour zone is not much better).
- When possible, there should be enough time between the end of screenings at one place and the start of screenings someplace else to allow people to get from one place to the other before the next movie starts. In fact, even in the same theater there should be enough time between films to allow for emptying the theater and starting again without falling behind in the schedule.
- If possible, sites should be within walking distance (of each other, the parking areas, and the hotels where people stay). If not, perhaps because the festival is deliberately designed to promote a number of related areas, then there should be lots of frequent public transportation from very early to very late to all venues. (Early and late are especially important for meeting with filmmakers before and after the films and parties.)
For facilitating networking:
- Everyone should always wear badges.
- The badges should have a large first name, a small last name, and the reason the person is there, all in type large enough to read from a few feet away. This information should be on both sides, because one-sided badges always seem to be upside down. The badge should be on a lanyard around the neck, hanging about heart high for easy reading. (Also, by the way, badges that hold your tickets and a schedule inside are very convenient.)
- Film makers should be encouraged to attend all the major parties, and any targeted parties. In particular free access to the major parties should be part of the package -- free of any extra cost to all producers, directors, actors, and other participants coming with the film.
- When there are targeted parties with particular sponsors, or honored guests, the sponsors and honored guests should come early, stay late, and be easy to find at the party.
- Any one with a project should have an ample supply of business cards.
For getting the best press coverage:
- PR firms and producers should send out the first information about their movies, their parties, and people available for interviews, well in advance of the time when schedules have to be finalized.
- There should be a contact list for everyone at the Festival (or nearby) that is (or could be convinced to be) ready or willing or able to meet the press for an interview, conversation or picture. Especially, the less famous people!
- The movie web site (with a good press section) should be up and running when the festival announces the line-up.
- There should be an informative press kit available before and after, but especially at the screening, as well as at any targeted party for the film.
- There should be a CD-ROM available with lots of still shots in JPEG format available, to enable stories to run with the best pictures.
For creature comforts:
- Good food, quick food, not overpriced food, and all types of food, should be conveniently available at every venue.
- Clean bathrooms should be conveniently available at every venue.
I'm sure there are many other things that you would like to see at film festivals you attend, and I'm inviting you to please contribute your comments.