Film festivals have long been a forum for recognizing artistic achievement, discovering new films and directors, and making distribution deals. But as the industry adapts to new technology and distribution models, festivals are changing as well. Last week the Harmony Institute participated in the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, which is developing innovative new programming for audiences and filmmakers. Partnering with like-minded organizations BAVC and Active Voice, we discussed the latest strategies and tools for film engagement and impact.
What can documentaries teach narratives?
Steven Soderbergh’s widely discussed keynote on the state of the film industry set the tone for conversations on distribution and creative freedom throughout the festival. In anticipation of these shifts, festival organizers created Artist to Entrepreneur (A2E) a new programming series that connects narrative filmmakers to technologists and distribution experts.
At A2E, HI participated on a panel focused on adapting engagement and measurement strategies pioneered by documentaries for narrative filmmakers. Shaady Salehi of Active Voice emphasized the importance of strategic planning for engagement, and Jennifer Gilomen of BAVC provided case studies of documentaries that had successfully engaged audiences. HI discussed the importance of audience measurement and real-time data during the narrative distribution process. Many of these strategies were drawn from the recently released Impact Playbook and re-imagined for the optimization of distribution of narrative films.
As narrative filmmakers increasingly use crowdfunding and community screening platforms, we believe that data can help successfully engage backers and viewers. In complex and competitive viewing environments, these tools will help filmmakers of all stripes find audiences.
Image: Still from A River Changes Course | Migrant Films
The San Francisco International Film Festival also presented an opportunity to talk with audiences and filmmakers about impact. HI took part in a salon titled Interactive Impact: Making change Through Audience Engagement to share our perspective and learn from other participants in this emerging field.
The salon introduced a filmmaker perspective to the discussion of social change. Kalyanee Mam, director of A River Changes Course and Jeremy Teicher director of Tall as the Baobab Tree (we highly recommend both films) spoke about how filmmakers can navigate creative and advocacy positions related to their films. The panel and audience also discussed how to best manage partnerships with nonprofits and the challenge of finding the time and energy to both make films and engage their audiences to make change.
Mam plans to screen her film, which chronicles issues of urbanization, labor, and the environment in modern Cambodia, throughout the country, often to citizens who lack access to media. Teicher is working with Girls Not Brides to address child and adolescent marriage, an issue that is dealt with in his film. Both films are complex and aesthetically rich—they remind us of the power of film to explore the nuances of important global issues.
Top Image: Interactive Impact Panel photographed by Pat Mazzera | courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society