A Film Fest’s Value in the Age of Streaming

DCIFF_PressPhotos-20As web access to on-screen stories has grown exponentially, it’s a fair question to ask: what’s the value of a film festival when most everything will end up online anyways? There’s so much content available on the top few mainstream platforms alone that someone could almost endlessly view new film, series, documentaries, and shorts. What’s more, film fanatics can bypass mainstream content and go straight to websites like Filmstruck, VelvetCulture, or IndieFlix to see independent film. Yet, going to the movies is a collective experience that isn’t replicated at home on a laptop or flat-screen TV. The value of coming together to see new, independent productions at a festival extends to more than just the filmmaker seeking promotion and a niche group of film aficionados and critics. That’s why there are still hundreds of film festivals alive and well worldwide.

Filmmakers whose work is showcased gain earned recognition for excellence and an occasion for celebrating their significant investment of time, resources, and creativity, in addition to a special opportunity for engagement with an audience. DCIFF, especially, works to honor filmmakers for their achievement of producing a story that connects with viewers, asks important questions, and offers something new. Part of that celebration is coming together and taking the time to experience the film, publicly affirming the work. Out of that comes the chance to directly engage with viewers, to hear first impressions and reactions, and to enter conversations (formally, through Q&A sessions, or causally at receptions).  A large part of the mission, necessarily, is forwarding the careers of filmmakers whose work has potential to connect to a larger audience. Selectees are in the running for helpful introductions to distributors, who can purchase rights and market in their own region or country. Additionally, festivals (some, not all) offer an opportunity for filmmakers to engage with professional peers in sharpening their craft and industry-knowledge through workshops, seminars, and masterclasses—all of which DCIFF hosts.

The experience differs significantly for the attendee who comes to receive, rather than present, story. Here’s the draw to attend: for anyone hungry to experience new stories on screen, the festival offers a chance to see what’s been made right now outside of mass-marketed content. The festival provides a helpful filter: out of the colossal supply of new, creative projects, a select menu is thoughtfully chosen for viewers to experience. In years past, DCIFF has received over 2,500 submissions, and the largest festivals often receive several thousands of feature films and twice as many shorts. In other words, attendees get to see the best of new work without either wading through the many thousands of films that will eventually be online, or only seeing work that has been noticed by distributors and deemed marketable to mass audiences. There is, too, the unique opportunity for attendees to meet and engage with filmmakers and learn more about the process and technique that goes into making the on-screen stories that have become such a large part of our cultural experience.

Finally, cultural community is enforced when there is a space made for people to come together, share an experience of a new perspective, and discuss what’s just been encountered. Communities choose to engage new art in clusters and film festivals play an important role in providing that venue for connection to stories that inspire, educate, and ask the right questions. DCIFF’s strong history of creating that space—for filmmakers and attendees alike—promises a worthwhile opportunity in this year’s festival in February!  If you want to receive updates about festival programming, sign up here