Hybrid or Festivals 2.0

More and more weeks are passing and another wave of film events is coming. The times of fully online operations and online events are gone (for now) ó finally, timidly, we’re leaving our homes. Although the calendar of Polish film festivals available at the Polish Film Institute website seems impressive, I’m not optimistic. My intuition tells me that the organizers of most of these events are struggling with uncertainty because right now planning of any event is extremely difficult. The work culture became our enemy: the overlap of the holiday season along with post-pandemic sluggishness caused us to wait for an e-mail response much longer than usual. But our love of cinema and festivals drives us in our quest to find the right formula which will be appreciated by the audience and participating artists.

The times of online enthusiasm are over: the filmmakers and the audience are beginning to look with suspicion at the organizers ideas. The film producers noticed that premature releasing of films online can shorten their festival distribution.

The festivals also noticed the potential threat of repeating the programs and losing the film premiere statuses Ė therefore emerged a call of more than a dozen film festivals to geo-block the film programs on a national level. We quickly revised the enthusiasm regarding the opening of the cinemas: the results of first weeks aren’t jaw-dropping, to the extent that some cinemas (including popular chain Cinema City) don’t plan to open up in the nearest future and distributors once again postponing their potentially commercial hits scheduled for the summer. I consider drive-in cinemas as nothing more than a seasonal return of event cinema, which doesn’t have the chance to permanently change the way we watch movies (not great comfort of viewing, small sustainability of events located at outskirts of towns and the fact that not everybody owns a car, especially these days).

I subjectively and briefly looked into upcoming popular events and I see few recurring trends:

ócancelling the festival in 2020, but replacing it with online and offline activities for film industry (Locarno) or local/national audience (Karlovy Vary),
ómoving festival dates to autumn (New Horizons Festival, Filmfest Dresden, Curtas Vila du Conde),
ócarrying out the festival exclusively online (Glasgow Short Film Festival, Encounters Short Film Festival, Nordisk Panorama),
óorganizing the physical edition of the festival, taking into account the sanitary regime (Sarajevo Film Festival, Lago Film Fest).

And there is also the hybrid variant, combining all forementioned solutions in any proportions. The hybrid editions will be held by Toronto Film Festival and London Film Festival, or even in the future Ė 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where the new director wrote an impassioned note about the necessity to step back from patterns of thinking about film festivals. On Polish ground the hybrid edition will have its debut on our Short Waves Festival, there will also be online and offline editions of Two Riversides Festival and Docs Against Gravity in September.

From my observations Ė†What connects all hybrid models?

ócareful analysis of festival program and conscious division for online / offline components,
órelatively high degree of complexity of proposed solution,
óglobally less number of events than usual,
óverifying beforehand the capacity of singular online events,
óbeing open for local audience and moving the most international sections online (industry, market),
ómultilocality i.e. multiplied locality of national level,
óhigh proficiency in social media and skill at creating a sense of community around the festival.

Is hybrid our new festival normality? We’ll find out about that at the end of the year. I obviously invite all interested parties to the 12th edition of Short Waves Festival.