How COVID has impacted filmmaker screenings and audiences

Impact producing means working in film with a strategy to find an audience that not only has been impacted by your film but will take action. In essence, it is using your film as a tool to advance an issue.

For most films, particularly for documentaries, this is done not just through viewings and screenings but with a Q&A portion at film festivals.

The pandemic has changed how screenings and impact producing is conducted. Now that screenings and Q&A sections are, for the most part, done virtually, both filmmakers and audiences have to adjust. These adjustments have provided chances that weren’t considered before such as allowing for smaller, rural areas of the United States to have a more intimate, albeit virtual, time with filmmakers. At DCIFF 2021 we will use a hybrid festival model, both in-person and virtual. 

Before, it was often not feasible financially and physically for the filmmakers themselves to get to a small area, find a hotel to stay in and be at the screening. Now, from the comfort of your living room, cast and crew and audience members can have conversations and get connected like never before. The possibilities of outreach and impact producing virtually have grown along with creative new ways of using the internet. This is something we are very aware of at DCIFF, so look out for our new monthly Film Interpretation Club starting January 2021.  Sign up for our newsletter if you want more information.

Of course, online conversation is not all positive change. There are issues of cyber security, keeping a person’s attention, finding the right audience, are all challenges faced during a time of COVID-19. Some filmmakers have experimented: they have offered their documentaries and films for a few days to allow the viewer to watch the film in preparation for a live Q&A virtual session. Others have done the viewing then, right after, have the Q&A session. A few film festivals will have a short Q&A session filmed in advance with the filmmakers to be viewed whenever the viewer wants to see it.

For those in the film world, 2020 has forced us to think creatively and make a few misses, but we are learning. The swing to online engagement may be here to stay. For filmmakers, reaching an audience and inspiring them is central to their work and their careers, and so this has been a time for experiments. For people who want to produce and share impactful and meaningful stories, it is important to create genuine partnerships. Keep an open mind, you never know how you will be able to achieve your goals. You could try engaging different audiences. There is no guarantee that your work will go viral but meeting people and expanding the range of those influenced by your work, is a true value of storytelling.

Written by Tara Jabbari,

DCIFF Filmmaker Relations