Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Online Film Festivities!

October was a super busy month for me in terms of attending online film/ animation festivals. I attended three in the space of around five weeks! In the last few years I haven’t been as active in attending film festivals mainly due to lack of money (transport, accommodation, festival pass, food etc all adds up), but also due to ‘wimping out’ or talking myself out of attending for various reasons. Though attending these festivals online was a gentle way of reintroducing myself back into the film festival routine. I actually can’t wait to attend one in real life now and really hope it won’t be too long before this can be done…

As attending an online festival was something new for me, I have decided to write my initial thoughts on what I experienced during October. The festivals I ‘went to’ were Encounters, Factual Animation Film Festival (FAFF) and Cardiff Animation Festival (CAF). The reason I chose to attend these ones were because I not only had a couple of my films screening at them, but also because they are amazing festivals. I went to the first CAF back in March 2018 and I had an absolutely amazing time! I never got the opportunity to go to Encounters or FAFF before, but I had always wanted to and due to them being online this year I finally could.

They were all quite different, but equally enjoyable. I guess because they were all online I didn’t think that they would differ that much but they really did, like ‘real life’ festivals do. I mean the premise is the same: you watch lots of films, you talk about said films and you watch filmmakers talk about films, but how each festival went about executing this was different.

Encounters was the longest, lasting for three weeks, while both FAFF and CAF ran for one week. Three weeks was the suitable amount of time for Encounters due to its vast programme of films, though one week was perfect for FAFF as there were twenty films screening. I felt CAF could have run for a little longer, because I didn’t feel it gave quite the time necessary to get to watch everything- well I say this, but I did manage to watch everything I wanted to(!), though I did feel a little pushed for time whilst doing so. I think (or at least for me) I am less likely to take time off to attend a virtual event rather than a physical one, so I felt additional time would be needed so you can fit the festival around your usual schedule.

CAF and Encounters had live events integrated within the festivals which was fantastic, because it made it feel more festival-like rather than just you at your computer watching films. CAF also had a chat function available for all the live events which was a welcome feature, because you could chat to other festival goers and animators (almost like the good old days)! Again, both Encounters and CAF had a variety of filmmaker (Zoom) Q+A’s. This was great, because not only are festivals good for watching films, but also to get to know about the processes behind the films and contextualising the content that you’re watching. I participated in the Skwigly Animator’s Brunch Q+A at CAF along with eight other animators, which was a really enjoyable experience (albeit slightly nerve-wracking at first)!

FAFF did have filmmaker interviews, but hosted them as an addition to the festival in terms of using them in the lead up to as promotion for it on their social channels. That also meant they were free and accessible to everyone to watch, whether you had a festival pass or not. They might have also encouraged people to purchase a pass. You can watch mine below. Of course I go on about how much I love roto ♡

All three festivals had a great line up of films in terms of quality and variation in story and techniques. I came away from each festival super inspired. For me, a sign of a great festival is one which creates that spark within you. I wasn’t sure whether this could be done through an online platform, so thank you to all festivals for being able too create this!

I suppose the main negative which was a constant across all three (well apart from not being able to watch films on a big screen or dodgy internet connections for Zoom interviews) was the whole festival vibe was lacking from the online version, a sentiment that was echoed amongst the filmmakers throughout the Q+A's. The opportunities to meet other filmmakers were absent, which when at a real life festival are the things which really makes it worth while. I, like many others, love getting the chance to meet likeminded people- it could lead to friendships and collaborations further down the line. Especially being an animator where you're stuck in a darkened room staring at a screen for what seems like hundreds of hours at a time (and usually is just that!), it's really nice to get out of that bubble once in a while and meet similar people. Yes, even we animators don't mind human contact every so often! It also gives a nice closure to that project if your film is selected for screening, rather than it disappear into the YouTube/ Vimeo ether like it so often does.

The Skwigly Q+A at CAF

Despite the above, having the festival online did make it extremely accessible for those unable to get to attend in person, whether this be because of disability, financial reasons, too busy or any other issue. All the online films had options for closed captions and the festival passes were extremely affordable. Perhaps the future is a hybrid? I think this would be the perfect combination to include everyone in attending the festival. I hope this is what we might be seeing more of in the future, due to the accessibility of an online festival being a huge advantage…

With the time given for each festival to transverse to a different medium, each did a wonderful job. As already stated, I am longing to attend one of these ‘in person’, but at the moment that is not possible and I would like to take this moment to thank all of the festivals for putting on brilliant events in such circumstances.

Sorry this post is so wordy- I probably put more effort into writing this than my English Language A-Level back in the day! Anyway, the next one should be more visual- I hope!!

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