In Cannes, festival directors discuss how the pandemic will change future editions of their events
– CANNES 2021: The conference, held on the Israeli pavilion during this year’s Film Market, saw the participation of several directors of international festivals
From left to right: Albert Wiederspiel, Elise Jalladeau, Beki Probst, Pnina Blayer, Stefan Laudyn, Tiina Lokk and Valerio Caruso during the meeting
On July 11, the Israeli pavilion hosted a special conference titled “Coronavirus Effects: Changes, Challenges, Creativity”. The event, which took place during this year’s Film Market (July 6-15), came after a forgettable year marred by the pandemic and attempted to identify key emerging trends in the festival and festival circuit. markets. The discussion, moderated by the director of Cineuropa Valerio Caruso, saw the participation of the founder of the European Film Market and advisor for the Berlinale Beki Probst, former director of the Haifa International Film Festival Pnina Blayer, director of the Hamburg Film Festival Albert Wiederspiel, director of Tallinn Black Nights Tiina Lokk, director of the Warsaw Film Festival Stefan Laudyn and General Manager of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival Elise Jalladeau.
At the start, Caruso mentioned the results of the recent AFIC survey of 140 Italian festivals, pointing out that in 2020 12% of them did not take place at all, 31% physically took place from September as of November, 30% were fully online and 27% took place in a hybrid form. Then he introduced the speakers and asked them to describe how their events adjusted to the pandemic.
Ironically, Lokk said that due to the unstable circumstances, she became “sort of a medical scientist” and the team decided to go hybrid in August. Fortunately, the Estonian government allowed screenings for local audiences and foreign guests, although the latter were officially allowed to participate just two weeks before the festival started. Geo-blocked online screenings have been implemented for Estonian audiences, and no territorial restrictions have been put in place for press and industry screenings. “Online is staying with us, including this year,” she added.
Laudyn never planned for an online edition and said he was aware the festival could have hosted only guests from the EU. “We even had a brave Ukrainian crew that came by car,” he stressed, “but the biggest obstacle was the daily change of regulations. “
Blayer explained how although she had run the festival for 34 years, this crisis had been totally unprecedented. The budget was cut by at least 30%, but the team was fortunate enough to secure the rights to show online, as not all sales agents normally allow it. “We were selling 8,000 tickets, but you have to consider that at least three people watch a movie online,” she explains, “we don’t have the same intimacy with the public, but on the other hand there are advantages for them. , they are seated, do not look for parking and they really take advantage of it! […] This year we will return to the hybrid.
Meanwhile, Probst took an entirely different stance: “The more you give people the ability to do everything online, the more you’ll kill the market.
Jalladeau later explained how they organized the two festivals run by their team and how they both ended up being hosted online due to the restrictions.
Wiederspiel spoke about the hybrid edition of his festival and expressed his wish to “not be part of the online world” in the future. Thanks to generous national aid of 2.5 billion euros provided by the German government, he added, the festival will be able to compensate for losses due to the 50% capacity threshold. He also said that another challenge for online and hybrid festivals is geo-blocking, and most sales agents are reluctant to “kill” certain territories through online screenings and feel more secure. security to share their films on international platforms rather than local and national. Probst also underlined the need to find a common solution to bring people back to the cinemas, a solution which would perhaps be valid for the whole festival circuit.
Speaking on the topic of guests, Laudyn thanked Black Nights for sharing their healthcare protocols and said partner hotels were “very liberal” with cancellation policies. Additionally, the festival hosted “over 140 Q&A, mostly on location,” and this model appears to be working and should stay in place with current travel limitations. “There is also an environmental aspect to consider, it is absurd to invite an Argentinian guest for a 30-minute question-and-answer session,” explained Wiederspiel, after noting that the costs of accommodation and travel had considerably. decreased due to the epidemic.
When it came to discussing finances and budgets, the results were very variable, resulting in either significant losses, a meager surplus (as in the case of the Black Nights) or even an increase in revenue (for example , 50% of Italian festivals surveyed by AFIC made profits in 2020).
The session ended with final greetings and a discussion on the possibility of organizing a similar gathering next year in Cannes, to see how the festival world has responded to the many challenges posed by the health crisis.
The conference was organized by the Rabinovich Foundation Israeli Cinema Project.