Are Film Festivals Still Relevant?

Are Film Festivals Still Relevant?
Film festivals used to be where we found out about hot titles and new releases... but not anymore. 

I am obsessed with Hollywood. Everything that I read and do day in and day out gets me closer to my part in it. That's why I loved following film festivals and covering them. You get to hear about the new directors and writers impressing people all over as well as the early favorites for the Academy Awards. 

But the times have changed. 

Coronavirus has forced many festivals to shift online or cancel altogether. 

And most of the time I follow movies that trend on Twitter and we see their marketing all over. 

How can festivals stay relevant in modern society? 

How Can Film Festivals Maintain Their Influence During a Pandemic?

The entire industry has been built around film festivals. They occur year-round and are seen as places movie get funding, castings are announced, and finished works are screened and purchased. 

But with dates for Awards Ceremonies shifting and theatrical releases faltering, the place of festivals in all of this is to be determined. 

The Academy Awards and BAFTAS moved back several months to allow theaters to get movies released and competing for the top honors. But without festivals premiering them, these films are struggling to find buyers and audiences. 

The entire 2020/2021 calendar is in flux.

As one person told IndieWire, “Nothing is going to change about people flying.”

“You’ll get certain filmmakers and indies. Chris Nolan is not flying around. We don’t know what theatrical looks like. It’s not like the festivals have the same well to draw from.”

With festivals moving dates the place we usually look for tastemakers has begun to disappear. Instead, people are hoping festivals will become where they can premiere their movies, build buzz, and possibly become awards contenders, without theatrical. 

As IndieWire puts it, "Everyone is trying to reimagine the first quarter of 2021. What films that were heading for 2020 release will hold for early 2021?  How will this change the role of the 2021 Sundance and Berlin festivals, which could theoretically introduce films in time for them to be released ahead of the Oscars? Will they become new awards platforms?"

What if Sundance now becomes the place to premiere movies we think should win Oscars and not the place that celebrated indie voices? In other words, If Sundance is the new Cannes... then what is Cannes? 

This confusion has led to people all over scrambling to figure out not just what 2020 holds, but what this new decade looks like. People are already pushing for the mandatory theatrical window for the Academy Awards to be limited or even torn down as financing has become hard to come by. 

Also, the idea of premiering movies online just seems easier. You can send links instead of screeners and people can watch and bid at their leisure. Still, you lose on the atmosphere and networking that is festivals.  

What do you think the future of the festival environment holds? 

Let us know in the comments.      

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I don't think there's much of value in festivals anymore, at least for the majority of us here. From what I hear in the industry, there are only 10-12 festivals that actually make a difference, and distributors and streamers attend. And the vast majority of films that get accepted in these top festivals have known talent in them, and are financed by "indie labels" of major studios, shot for millions. Very few films that were shot on micro-budgets from "true" indies are getting accepted there. The days that Sundance was handing out careers are long gone. So why even bother with festivals? But maybe I'm wrong and I'm missing something.

June 22, 2020 at 10:56AM

Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist


June 23, 2020 at 2:10AM

Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker