The Plight of the Modern Film Festival

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The Plight of the Modern Film Festival

By Movieguide® Contributor

The difficulties of running a film festival have compounded in recent years, causing many to rethink their scope as they face sometimes insurmountable odds.

In the past four years, film festival organizers have had to confront numerous global events including the pandemic, war and inflation. Each crisis has combined to create an environment that makes it difficult to run a successful film festival. Now, even the most recognizable festivals are being forced to reevaluate themselves as they fight to stay afloat.

“This year’s was more difficult than usual,” said Berlin Film Festival programmer Lorenzo Esposito. “I’ve been a programmer for 20 years and things are different today. There are many social issues and contexts that impact the way you approach a film.”

“Festivals have become important platforms for expressing opinions and for people to use them as platforms,” added Karlovy Vary’s artistic director, Karel Och. “You see filmmakers and producers withdrawing films from certain events because they don’t think the festival is saying the right things about a global event or subject. I find it short-sighted to force a festival to take sides like that. Festivals are meant to be spaces for different voices and opinions. Without conversations we won’t go anywhere.”

Beyond the societal issues, these festivals are struggling to stay relevant as consumers change their preferences. In a post-pandemic world, so many people have gotten used to watching movies in their own homes that even diehard fans find it difficult to rationalize the cost of attending a festival when they could stream the movie only a week or two later.

This change has impacted filmmakers as well who realize that debuting a movie at a festival does not go as far as it used to.

“For me as a producer, the big challenge when it comes to festivals is about consumer habits and distribution for festival films,” said Mike Goodridge, head of the Macao Film Festival and former CEO of international sales firm Protagonist Pictures. “It is becoming harder to generate publicity, reviews and sales at festivals beyond a few select titles.”

“I think we’re now experiencing the full impact of streamer disruption and it’s harder to quantify the value of festivals,” he added. “On one hand, we want to be at festivals, we want those reviews, and that platform, but it feels harder and harder to find those slots.”

With the decay of the film festival format, it becomes ever more important that filmmakers connect with a core audience. The success that this approach can bring has been seen through the work of Angel Studios which has created numerous hits in the past years, thanks to its focus on family-friendly, uplifting content – which audiences crave the most.

Since Angel Studio launched in 2021, it has created over a dozen shows and movies that have started to change the industry because of their incredible impact. Their unbelievable success with projects such as THE CHOSEN and SOUND OF FREEDOM has proven to Hollywood the strength of faith-based content.

“I had not felt that hunger from the studios in a long time to reach the audience,” faith-based producer Jon Erwin said after the success of SOUND OF FREEDOM. “It’s an audience that doesn’t even want to feel agreed with. It’s a massive audience that just wants to feel seen, heard, and understood.”

Now Angel Studios is drawing ever larger names such as BLACK PANTHER’s Letitia Wright who produced the upcoming movie SOUND OF HOPE: THE STORY OF POSSUM TROT.

While film festivals have long served as a staple of the industry, with the change in consumer preferences, it is up to them to conform to the new norm. As they struggle to stay relevant, their best course of action would be to cater to the strongest audience.

Movieguide® previously reported on film festivals:

As film festival season begins, many wonder how the WGA and SAG strikes will affect these events.

Amid the ongoing strikes, actors cannot promote their movies or attend premieres. While this might seem like it would kill any appearances at film festivals, interim agreements with movies produced by independent studios allow the glitz and glam to continue.

Rather than be completely void of stars, these festivals will have a smattering of talent depending on the studios behind the movies.

“It’s really been a process of just determining who is coming and under [bad] circumstances,” saidCameron Bailey, a chief executive for the Toronto Film Festival. “But then also, for some of our stakeholders here in Toronto, just assuring them that we’re still going to have that festival excitement, there are still going to be red carpets, that there are still going to be stars in town.”

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