Forced by circumstance to cancel their upcoming editions, many festival organizers are opting to host virtual events instead.
Pressed for time, and with little precedent to go on, they are more or less improvising their models. The various approaches they are taking amount to a vast experiment in online distribution and exhibition.
An interesting case is Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS), one of Europe’s largest animation festivals, which announced last month that it would go online this year. The organizers have now unveiled the details of OnlineFestival.ITFS.de (as its virtual edition is called), which will be held May 5–10.
The event will consist of three tiers: one free and two that require payment. OnlineFestival Free will offer a mix of moderated interviews, live panels, and short films each day, as well as the opening and award ceremonies — all live-streamed. There will also be a free Gamezone, offering games for children and adults, presentations by schools and studios, workshops and lectures, and a focus on the nominees for the Animated Games Award Germany 2020.
For a one-off fee of €9.99 (US$10.68), viewers can access OnlineFestival+, which will feature on-demand streams of short films selected in competition, features, and highlights from recent years — over 250 films in all — alongside video statements from filmmakers. The selections include high-profile shorts like Konstantin Bronzit’s He Can’t Live Without Cosmos and Tomek Popakul’s Acid Rain, alongside features both classic (Adam Elliot’s Mary & Max) and new (Eduardo Rivero’s A Costume for Nicolas, a premiere from Mexico). An image from the latter film is at the top of this piece.
OnlineFestival Pro is pitched at industry professionals. It will feature talks and masterclasses, including one by Ernest & Celestine co-director Benjamin Renner; links to the ITFS’s sister event Animation Production Days, which is a co-production and financing market; and access to the Animated Video Market, where one can view around 1,900 films submitted to this year’s festival. The cost is €19.99 ($21.40), and includes a pass to OnlineFestival+.
This multi-tiered model is one of the more nuanced that we’ve seen so far. Of course, ITFS has had more time to devise it than festivals that have already held online editions, like Ann Arbor and SXSW. Whether it works — commercially as well as technically — remains to be seen. In any case, ITFS doesn’t see virtual editions as a long-term solution, as Dieter Krauss, the commercial managing director behind the festival, clarified:
At this specific time, it is of particular importance to establish a platform for the filmmakers, so as to provide visibility of and audiences for their creative and artistic works. At the same time, our fans can enjoy many artistic, animated films, if only at home this year for once. However, it is still important to us to organise a festival for joint cinema experiences and opportunities for personal exchange again next year.
Recently, we spoke to people in the industry about what the shift to online festivals means to them.
For more information on OnlineFestival.ITFS.de, head to its official website.