My first ever film festival experience turned out to be far different and more insightful than I had originally expected. While I had originally thought it would just be a bunch of new films played in succession followed by an award ceremony, it quickly became much more. I had been in the process of getting into film production but did not know how or where to make the connections needed to become successful in the industry. Film-making is a team sport, and I thought visiting the film festival may at the very least give me some information on flyers of different companies or groups to reach out to. I was also interested in the film offerings, however, since they were short film and short documentary based, I wasn’t fully focused on finding what I wanted from an entertainment perspective. The entire festival took place in the same building, and while films were bring screened, there were many free side events and workshops taking place in separate rooms.
This is what impressed me the most. The entire week was full of valuable resources and events, hosted and attended by industry professionals who had extensive experience in film-making. I had realised that this festival was just as much a networking event as it had been a ritualistic offering of newly released short films being pushed around the “circuit”. And to me it was apparent that this was the point of the circuit at its core. A director and/or film producer offers their film’s premiere at a film festival in the hopes that the audience reacts well, and that other industry giants take notice and want to work with these artists going forward. I was able to watch this in action as I was talking to one of the directors of a recently screened short film she had finished, while multiple agents and producers would come up to her to offer their cards and contact information in the hopes of starting a working relationship. In other parts of the room, aspiring writers, actors, directors, and producers would frantically rotate person to person, trying to network as best they could during the allotted time that the festival social event was being held.
This was my most valuable observation at this particular festival, but the ultimate goal of networking may not be of interest or may even go unnoticed by the average film festival viewer, who may just be excited to see brand new films that may have not been introduced to cinemas and thus giving the feeling of exclusivity. Overall, I had an amazing time seeing a few films, meeting different professional and amateur film makers who make valuable connections for me as a film-maker, and experiencing an event made up of many parts that create an exciting experience for everyone who loves film and wants to share the moments of making and watching them.