The essential elements for programming a film festival

The film festival is not just a simply celebrity carnival party, but also a platform for the communication and cooperation of countless film business projects, the auteurs, and the filmmakers. As a large-scale event organized regularly and a gathering of film art, the film festival is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of the film industry. Over the years, it gradually developed from the initial film screening into a comprehensive platform that combines the tasks of film evaluations and commercial communications. It is probably an occasion to promote the national films rather than international import ones, and also as a political tool of certain political ideas dissemination, which plays an invaluable role in the society. There are scholars pointed out that the purpose of holding the new film festivals is to evoke a community that shares experience and promotes specific goals and ideologies (Elsaesser, 2005, p.89). And most post-war film festivals in Europe played the role as a showcase of national films and a demonstration of national achievements (de Valck, 2007, p.47). What are the key clues for programming a successful film festival? How could the film practitioners effectively participant in the film festivals?

Basically, choosing a proper site to hold the event is the first essential. Generally speaking, the cities with commercial values and the popular tourist destinations are the ideal choices of the film festivals setting. The local economies will determine the influence of the film festival, while an influential experienced film festival will drive the regional economic development. It is also the reason why some cities judge the film festival holding opportunities as the chance of city branding.

Alex Fischer (2009) defines the film festival as an open system, which the operational capabilities depend upon the successful importation of certain resources that can be only acquired from the outside environment. The resources include but not limited to the films, filmmakers, audiences, funding, and media promotion. He argues that without external participation, a film festival would enter into operation failure. And the degree of dependency upon external resources required to operate a fully functional film festival is extremely high, whereas a small-scale film festival only needs few resources to run successfully (Fischer, 2009, p.28).

A successful film festival needs a clear curatorial concept and its own characteristics in terms of cultural styles. A clear theme makes the film festival event have clear directions, avoid vaguely, become more meaningful, so that the organizers can carry out more targeted activities. On the other hand, the filmmakers and the auteurs can have the reference, combine their works advantages with the characteristics of the film festival to decide whether or not to attend.

The organizers of the film festival, the exhibitors, the filmmakers, the various practitioners related to the film festival, or even the audiences, are all participating into this one large event in their own ways. Every institution and every individual is also the indispensable factor in a successful film festival. Therefore, the successful operation of a film festival is closely related to each participant, and only through mutual cooperation can the film festival as a platform play its fullest effect. As an inexperience first-time organizer team, it is a big challenge to combine all the essential elements for a successful film festival well. We are looking forward to seeing everything put in places step by step.




Fischer, A 2009, Conceptualising Basic Film Festival Operation: An Open System Paradigm, School of Humanities, Bond University.

DeValck, M 2007, Film Festival: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Elsaesser, T 2005, European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

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