Saturday, October 24, 2020

Canada’s virtual film festivals: Like a stream come true in 2020


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Vancouver’s Fostner notes that virtual festivals also face a choice of how to stream. Some choose to replicate the festival experience as closely as possible with a set screening time. Others provide a window, typically 24 to 48 hours. Vancouver offered a subscription package, which allowed purchasers access to everything at the fest. “It wasn’t as simple as just moving the experience online,” says Fostner.

Some festivals also geo-blocked their titles, a decision influenced by the needs of rights holders, but also made in collaboration with other fests. So CIFF could be streamed from anywhere in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, while the Sudbury festival was Ontario-wide, Halifax took the Atlantic provinces, and Vancouver’s VIFF spread across British Columbia. 

Schroeder praised the conversations among organizers. “That really felt like the coming together of a community,” he says. “It was moral support, but it also involved sharing notes … and uplifting each other, because sometimes our work feels a little bit lonely.”

A combination of loneliness and society, fear and enthusiasm, is being felt across the country. “It has so pushed the sector,” says Kelly Straughan, artistic director of Toronto’s Rendezvous with Madness festival, which runs from Oct. 15 to 25 this year and recently had to cancel its in-person screenings and exhibit tours. “We’ve had to catch up to what is possible online.”

But, she adds: “This is a really great thing to push fests to do. This does make it way more accessible.”

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