AUSTIN, Texas — Film festivals are, of course, all about the films. But in the aftermath of the pandemic and with the rising popularity of streaming services, the format of these festivals is changing – especially considering the steep price of admission.
"I was quite shocked to find that €800 was the cheapest badge that I, as a poor filmmaker, could, you know – I have to give four lectures at Cambridge to earn that much money," said Paul Wiffen, a filmmaker and music technology professor at Cambridge,
For the price tag, attendees expect an enhanced experience.
"I don't just go to a film festival to watch movies. I go first and foremost to meet other filmmakers and try and get some cross-fertilization happening,” Wiffen said.
South by Southwest (SXSW) organizers and filmmakers are realizing that after the pandemic, a shared viewing experience is important to audiences making the trip to a festival.
"There was something so special about watching that movie with a big crowd and really having that experience together," said Eugene Hernandez, director of the Sundance Film Festival and public programming.
It's an experience that individuals streaming a movie by themselves can’t have.
But organizers also said that with virtual streaming, filmmakers have to offer a more interactive experience to viewers nowadays.
"For those audiences that are going to watch films at home, both for the filmmaker and the festivals, how can you bring them into the story of the film?" asked Jacqueline Lyanga, curator of Global Cinema and XR, festivals, events and platforms.
The viewing experience, whether in a theater or on a streaming platform, is changing the way filmmakers make movies.
“Artists are responding to that and making it work differently and enhancing the work differently depending on those experiences,” Hernandez said.
But festival organizers know one thing for sure – the format of film festivals will forever be evolving.