We all remember well the beginning of the pandemic and the anxiety we all felt. In mid-March, the virus occupied people’s minds as the sign of looming disaster and the possible source of a big crisis for most Europeans. Events were being cancelled one after another, borders were closing, images of paralysis and overloaded hospitals were really affecting our imagination. I wish that this harsh lesson showed us that without systemic support and a supportive society we, as humans, are completely helpless in the face of natural disasters, epidemics and crises (which we are also causing). But itís hard not to notice the small actions of groups and individuals that gave us comfort in these difficult times.
The film industry reacted immediately Ė the cancelled festivals and film sets shutting down mark the beginning of new normality for the internationalized sector.
One of the first initiatives that started on 16th of March was My Darling Quarantine Short Film Festival Ė an instant response for the ongoing situation by the short film industry. The team behind the project was my colleagues from Talking Shorts, which only proves the thesis that with existing channels of cooperation between the festivals, it’s much easier to make new actions – also self-help ones.
The idea was quite simple: every week we will publish sets on our website of seven dystopian shorts made by filmmakers who agreed to present their works online without licensing fee and the audience will be encouraged to donate to the fundraiser at GoFundMe. The gathered funds will be split – one half will go for the Doctors Without Borders organization and the second half will be donated for the people and cultural institutions that were affected by the pandemic. The films were chosen by programmers of major film festivals willing to take part.
The beginning of the fundraiser was very uplifting – it created reactions of dozens if not couple hundreds of industry members thanks to the possibilities of social media – although during the first week, the overloaded algorithms of Facebook decided to block the initiative for two days treating it as a spam or page with fake news about COVID-19, though we joined to share a pretty clear message: #staythefuckhome.
During two weeks, thanks to the commitment of our friends – programmers from around the world – we managed to prepare a press release in 10 languages which was published more than 160 times in 20 countries. To my astonishment, in Poland the story was picked up by such big media outlets as Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita and Onet, including industry media. The overall views in social media reached hundreds of thousands. The Talking Short team worked every day, selecting the films and communicating the passing weeks of the fundraiser or giving an interview in the Bulgarian TV channel. Every week, a couple of hundreds of viewers were voting for their favorite film, and the reviews of the winning films were published on the Talking Short website. Simple, isn’t it?
After 10 weeks of the project, I must say that My Darling Quarantine clearly showed me the utopian side of certain initiatives, even such extensive ones as this.
Thanks to enormous effort we were able to raise around as much and as little as 4,5 thousand euro at this moment. Officially, the weekly film programs of My Darling Quarantine ends with the end of May, but the fundraiser will last till mid-June. The audience winners of this last 10 weeks will be shown as part of Vienna Shorts Online, to at least partially financially make up the filmmakers’ contribution. What can we learn from this? That world of short cinema, even though is very well-connected and cooperative Ė still doesn’t have enough social recognition, and it’s really difficult to raise the awareness of wide audience and so-called business world, which will be willing to sponsor our actions Ė doesn’t matter if it’s about the film industry or fundraising for a good cause.
On the other hand, the whole project still remains to me a valuable and important initiative: after all, our dystopian film programs were watched by a few thousand people around the world and certainly gave them some glimpse of light in this gloomy darkness of lockdown. Talking Shorts gained new readers and us, the editorial staff, instead of numbly looking at numbers, had a sense of acting for a good cause. Right now we’re researching to whom we can transfer the funds Ė we will prepare the note with the final results probably at the end of June.
The last program that we are presenting as part of My Darling Quarantine Short Film Festival is called Love is (still) in the air. You can watch it till Monday, 1st of June 2020 at Talking Shorts, where you will also find the links to the fundraiser Ė available till 15th of June 2020.
And what happens in the red-carpet world of feature films? There are more than a few supporting initiatives, although they’ve started with a slight delay. Right now, we could attend the We Are One Global Film Festival Ė created by the largest film festivals around the world available to watch on Youtube. I really appreciate the actions of such festivals as Locarno Film Festival, who canceled its August edition, but set up the experimental aid competition The Films After Tomorrow. The solidarity funds for the filmmakers are becoming another homely aspect of new normality, although we surely realize that without the public support on national / international level we wouldn’t have the chance to survive. And right now we need to promote these more than ever.