(Blog 4) Thoughts on Marketing and Success

 

In this final blog, I have chosen two topics to discuss based off of Week 7 and 8 lectures and reading materials. The first of which is my thoughts on applying marketing concepts and goals to running a film festival, and how that has affected our group thus far. The second is my thoughts on the week 8 lecture topic that analysed the the definition of success, and how that shapes the goals for my film festival team.

In How to Set up a Film Festival, it says to set clear marketing objectives, such as “achieve 50% capacity over all screenings”, or “achieve x number of attendees” (Eldridge and Voss, 2001). At first we had very little direction on how to put the marketing team to work early. It became clear that marketing research could be assigned in order to set the level of expectation we wanted in order to provide guidance for our sponsorship and events planning teams. The goals we had set were high, as we wanted to fill to capacity every room we booked, and were unsure of how to predict such goals. Our aim at this point was to utilise the marketing team to their fullest and try to reach the highest potential viewers who would be interested in this somewhat narrow topic of immigration, and hope that we can bring in a fraction to fill the spots we had booked. Our goals then, became based on filling the spots our sponsorship team could secure us at each venue, as the capacity was finite, where as the potential audience with the right marketing techniques could be in comparison, unlimited. We found that goals were important to set, because without clear goals, we would never really know how to define our success against our expectations, and perhaps more importantly, our future success.

This brings us to the second topic. How do we define success? At its core, it is a subjective answer. Success is measured differently depending on the person. In the week 8 lecture, one line on the PowerPoint slides stuck out to me: “For such an organisation to be successful, financial and social values must be treated with equal importance.” (Monash, 2018). A balanced effort to me seems to be the best strategy simply because they are dependent on each other. A reflection of social values that people can relate with will be reflected in the attendance or financial success, and high attendance and financial success is a tangible way to measure whether or not a social message was received. Our group had acknowledged this early on when we decided on the theme of our festival. As some of us wanted a high turn out, a festival focused on immigration based in a country with such a strong immigrant population made sense. Similarly, some of us valued choosing a theme they believed in, and working to secure a large audience meant that the message was not sent in vain.

 

References
Eldridge, Pippa, and Julia Voss, editors. How to Set up a Film Festival. BFI, 2001.

“Film Festivals as Counter Public Sphere .” Lecture Slides Week 8. Melbourne, Monash.

(Blog 3) Thoughts on volunteers and festival demographics

In this blog post, I would like to cover two different topics as they apply to the film festival my group is running. One is looking at the importance of volunteers as the responsibilities expand for the film festival to function, and two, is understanding the benefits and disadvantages of running a festival that is broadly international, or a festival that is targeted at specific demographics (ie: Queer Film Festival).

While the nature of film festivals seems to have made it more convenient and feasible to rely on volunteering, especially as the responsibilities scale up, it is not financially rewarding for most of those taking part in making the festival function (Monash, 2018). The difference is clear that without massive sponsorship that is often only afforded to the major international film festivals, financial return is difficult to secure, and without a change in government policy, it is difficult to see an optimistic outlook for film festivals as technology pushes the world of film into the digital realm. One thought from a cultural and creative industries standpoint focused on policy would be to continue to push for government funding to these areas, as they should be considered important for an engaged and connected community. These festivals are often not only financially unrewarding for the volunteers that do the most simple tasks, but also for many who are at the top of the organisational structure. While these festivals will continue to run as long as there are people who love to hold them, an important ethical question is whether or not we believe they are important enough to afford careers made within the niche film festivals that may not be heard on the same scale as international film festivals.

The second directly affects how we look at the first, because there is a massive gap between the amount of resources a major international film festival can receive through corporate funding, and the mostly grassroots community based funding that helps fund film festivals that represent smaller communities (Loist, 2011). While in the major international film festivals there can be several paid positions and more funding to put toward extravagant displays, the festivals targeted at small demographic groups and themes could have trouble paying even their top level employees, and it is difficult to find funding. They often rely on funding from those who are part of the very community the festivals speak to (Loist, 2011). This can be tricky for a few reasons, one of them being the obligation to cater to a certain group of sponsors, which would affect programming. Our team has felt the effects of learning who is more likely to sponsor our event by understanding this point. For an Australian immigration film festival, it is more likely we will get sponsored by immigrants and those groups who advocate for immigrants.

References

 

“Programming, Film Festival Audiences, Fandom and Labour.” Lecture Slides Week 6, Semester 2, 2018. Melbourne, Monash.

Skadi Loist. Precarious cultural work: about the organization of (queer) film festivals, Screen, Volume 52, Issue 2, 1 July 2011, Pages 268–273, https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjr016

Thoughts on ethnography and the Kimberley

I went into the premiere and special presentation around the film “Undermined: Tales from the Kimberley” with little prior knowledge about the film, or its social implications in respect to the current Australian geo-political climate surrounding the indigenous people of northern Australia. It was a thought provoking and informative documentary, and was very well made. What I was most curious about afterward though, was the level of research that went into the presentation of this film at the festival. Not particularly from the director’s, producer’s or ‘subjects’ involved in making this film’s point of view, but from the relationship between the work of an ethnographer and the curating of films.

Toby Lee wrote at length about how he had realised retrospectively the importance of his ethnographic research of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, and how it shaped his understanding of film festivals as “not only culturally, politically, and economically embedded social experiences…” but also his understanding of “the larger transnational networks in which (film festivals) operate” (Lee, 2016). This had made me wonder about the research that had gone into the curating and presentation of this documentary. The experience itself started off with a ceremonial ritualistic “welcome” to the audience, followed by a musical presentation by one of the “subjects” of the film. The main ‘subject’ of the film, then said a few more words before the film was then screened. After the film ended, there was a Q&A where several audience members shared their thoughts and emotions toward the topics before asking questions on the film.

As a documentary, it was not surprising that the questions asked were less about how the film was made but more about the implications of the message portrayed. Even after the moderator with the microphone asked the audience for questions, not statements, many had started off with extending their condolences. Questions were vague, as if the audience was struggling to find a way to help but couldn’t understand the problem from a much larger political and logistical perspective. Finally, and appropriately, the last question was “What can be done to stop thisfrom happening to the Kimberley?”. Such answers were difficult, but the entire presentation and message of the film was to culminate to this very question. And that was the point, to spark a discussion that could address how we get two different cultures to relate to each other enough to reach out and help. Bridging the cultural gap between locals of the Kimberley, and the audience of a busy and internationally assimilated city culture like Melbourne must have been no easy task, and while conveying a message that can be relatable to the viewer primarily lies with the creators of the film, the theme and careful curation within a film festival is where it is likely that a film is to find its most receptive audience.

 

References

Valck, Marijke de, et al. Film Festivals History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.

Insights gained from attending the St. Kilda Film Festival

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.