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How We Put Together A Virtual Film Festival In 3 Weeks

Many people, and rightfully so, spend six months or more putting together film festivals. It’s much harder than it looks! But what if you could successfully launch a film festival in under a month? During the COVID-19, launching a film festival in under a month is precisely what we did at BingeWave, and we detailed exactly how to accomplish this below.

We hope this article will inspire others also to host their own film festivals as the barriers for doing so are low. Just because we can’t get together during COVID-19, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy movies together.

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George Floyd

What does the murder of George Floyd have to do with a film festival? In this case, everything. His murder, along with Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, sparked the worldwide protest. It was a profound moment in history.

While protesting is a great way to raise awareness, I’ve always looked at oppression as an interconnected system. Redlining, gentrification, education, policing, and the prison system all work together to prevent people of color from moving forward. Creating a film festival to raise people’s awareness around the issues seemed the right thing to do, and thus began the Social Justice Film Festival.

Prospecting Films — Week 1

As the team at BingeWave came together around the idea, we began thinking about the best way to get film submissions. And we came up with Facebook! There are plenty of Facebook Groups, especially black groups which were our target market, that have libraries of films waiting to be released. Just merely posting on this site generated lots of great responses. To organize submissions, we only used this Google Form.

We also tapped in partnered networks like Creators for Justice, who was more than kind enough to lend us support finding films and marketing. They are one of those rare genuine organizations that are true to their mission. Finally, there was research for hidden treasures and direct outreach people Robin Hamilton (Around Robin Productions) who contributed her documentary on Fannie Lou. By the end, we had about 40 submissions!

The Naming

The original name was the Social Justice Film Festival. Clear, straight to the point, and was unknowingly taken by the Social Justice Film Festival. Even though I had accidentally stolen their name originally, they were super helpful in connecting us to filmmakers like Miles Iton, who became part of the festival.

I’m terrible at names, luckily some people I know are fairly good at it. Daron Jenkins of the NY Film Loft/ 12 Million Podcasts came up with the name JustUs, which reminded me of old school hip-hop songs. And thus, we became the JustUs Film Festival.

Curating The Films — Week 2

The next part was curating the film. Curating the film was probably the longest part of putting together the festival. 40+ submissions mean you have hours and hours of video to watch. We created a spreadsheet and said yay or nay as we curated the films.

Then we have to create the contracts with filmmakers pressed to get them signed. At the same time, we had quickly gathered the marketing materials for the films that would be marketed by the filmmakers and us.

Marketing — Week 3

The last week and the final week was upon us! And we hadn’t started marketing yet. The quick solution would have been Facebook and Twitter, except they rejected almost all ours ads because we weren’t allowed to advertise socially conscious content. It’s hard to start a socially conscious movement if you can’t tell anyone about it.

So, we got creative. The first was supplying the filmmakers with content and asking to help promote the content. Then there was our affiliate program built into the platform where we can invite a film’s cast and crew to promote the film and earn a percentage of ticket sales. We can turn production teams into a marketing force by monetarily incentivizing them. Finally, there was outsmarting Facebook and Twitter.

Instead of posting ads about a socially conscious event, we started to post them in question format, like this widely popular black panther post:

And somehow people started buying tickets to the screenings. We used a simple tactic for pre-sales that we describe in this article How To Host A Virtual Film Festival. Early bird tickets decrease last-minute sales.

The Actual Festival

During the festival is where execution became slightly more manageable. BingeWave, as a platform, was designed for film screenings. Meaning that we have the following built-in:

  • Online streaming that would only play at a designated time
  • Built-in Video Q&A Technology
  • Built-in watch party chats

The goal was to avoid switching between a variety of different types of tech like Youtube, Eventbrite, Hangouts, and other solutions. It was a little rocky, ensuring everyone was coordinating properly for the panels on the first day, but we improved on the 2nd and 3rd day.

In Conclusion

First, we are NOT advocating that you should put your festival together in 3 weeks. You should be thoughtful in your plans and execution; that is what makes a fantastic event. What we are saying is that if you are thinking about hosting your film festival, it’s entirely possible and more accessible than it seems.

The barriers to getting started are virtually non-existent, and we did reasonably well, considering it was our first one we’ve ever put together on our own in a limited time frame. The key is to break down the process into three sectors — operations, marketing, and technology. Operations are how you manage the filmmakers, while marketing is the tactics you use to promote the event, and BingeWave provides the technology that makes running the screenings.

BingeWave is live streaming, community building and revenue generation platform for filmmakers. We serve everyone from web series, documentaries to features, and champion diverse narratives.

For information on hosting your own festival or obtaining distribution, please visit: https://distribution.bingewave.com/

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