How can we define ‘success’ of a film festival?

WechatIMG970Today, it’s glad to invite Cerise Howard as a guest lecturer to share her hands-on experience on several film festivals and kindly answer our questions from the practical perspective, which helped us to link and deepen our theoretical and academical understanding. What inspired me most can be summarized as three keywords: passion, challenge, and creativity, although these words are the answers to different questions. After reflection, I reckon that these three keywords are also the essentials of a successful film festival, or you can say, the inevitable stages a good film festival have to go through.


When asked about the reason to go in for film festival field, Cerise highlighted the first keyword, passion. She defined herself as a volunteer, which means it’s not about money but non-profit oriented with the ambition to spread the culture of the country she loves or try to counter some unfair social phenomenon such like trans and gender diverse community. And one good film festival indeed can achieve her initial ambition, which encourages her to keep passion and continuously put efforts into it year by year. In other words, a successful film festival should be appealing to the degree to which it can foster and maintain participators’ passion, whether filmmakers, staff, volunteers or the audience. Passion should be the first key to a successful film festival.


In my defense, a film festival could not be good enough if everything is going smoothly during the whole process, as its task is not just about filtering out interesting things from the overabundance of choice, but some more complicated ones such as cultural exchange, political ambition or niche disclosure. That is exactly the natural challenge of a niche film festival. Yes, every film festival tries to maximize its awareness, but each one’s audience is different, could not be everyone. How to attract the right person, sometimes they are the subaltern group, then the challenge I’m talking about would be how to gather them together and counter the public?


To a large extent, creativity can be seen as a panacea to most of the challenges. For examples, a brilliant creative idea re-packaging the film festival can not only highlight its social value but also persuade ‘snobs’ to tap its potential financial value. For the audience, creativity is of the significance as well. An innovative trailer will drive traffic exceeding expectation, or a user-friendly interaction will provide a more immersive experience for the audience. Taken Czech Slovak film festival trailer as an example, Cerise showed two trailers for us on the lecture and I finished viewing all the trailers, which I believe you will enjoy all of them and get some ‘subtle’ feelings. Each trailer differed in methods of shooting and cutting, but what’s the most amazing is a ‘subtle’ similar creativity you will be informed from each trailer, which is actually difficult to describe but I guess we can call it as Czech Slovak Style? This is what a valuable film festival should deliver to its audience, which is absolutely not just measured by total income, but the degree to which audience can take information, absorb knowledge and then be influenced.


At the end, I want to say, in our contemporary world, it might be hard to separate the general understanding of success at the box office or reputation and relatively more insightful definition of success, such as the emotional connection it creates between the filmmakers and the audience, or the benefits it gives our society or community, or the fulfillment it gives the artists themselves?





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