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10 reasons why film festivals are important

Posted on May 9th, 2011
Posted on May 9th, 2011

Coop Cooper

After attending numerous film festivals over the years, I quickly learned the benefits of such an event, but was frustrated I was not exposed to them sooner. I feel it is necessary to highlight the advantages so people in my community, and others, can understand what the big deal is. These positives do not apply exclusively to film festivals, but to music, art and all other creative festivals as well…

  1. Showcasing new talent – The best way for an up-and-coming filmmaker to get his/her name out there is to submit a film and gain acceptance into film festivals. Whether the film passes muster or not with the audience, the filmmakers get recognition simply for completing a work and getting it screened. Those with the skill to win over the audience and receive awards reap further benefits.

  1. Supporting local talent – Festivals give preference to filmmakers local to the area when picking films to screen. This encourages and supports the local film community and gives them a platform from which they can leap to the next level. It also guarantees ticket sales due to a built-in audience of crew members, actors, friends and family who don’t have to travel far to support the film.

  1. Networking – These festivals also give filmmakers a chance to commune with fellow filmmakers, supporters, media representatives and various professionals. I can tell you from personal experience I have made important contacts and lifelong friends from networking at festivals. It establishes mutually beneficial relationships and leads to many collaborative possibilities.

  1. Promoting tourism – Film festivals attract tourists from both in and out of the state. A filmmaker will usually travel across the country to attend and promote a screening of their film. It also attracts media professionals and film fans who, if treated well, will return home to rave about the festival and the town hosting it.

  1. Catering towards the interests of locals – Most film festivals favor a niche and will include films based in the region or focus upon a subject many locals will find relevant to their culture and interests. This also helps bring particular genre fans to the festivals based on its niche.

  1. Benefitting the local theater – While the arrangement between the festival promotors and the theater(s) hosting the festival may vary, the theater enjoys fringe benefits such as a potential boost in concession sales and positive word of mouth about the venue. This can backfire if the theater suffers from technical difficulties or a lack of services/hospitality. However, theaters are usually chosen due to their positive reputations and helpful management. This proactive approach eliminates most issues before they arise.

  1. Benefitting the local merchants – Tourists spend money. Any festival coming to town will attract them and local merchants will experience a respectable spike in business.

  1. Inspiring community collaboration – Festivals bring community organizers together and foster an atmosphere of town pride and friendship among the participants. This is another form of networking in which bonds are formed and new creative/business opportunities can arise from the relationships.

  1. Bestowing awards/recognition – Awards benefit the promotion of the festival as well as the filmmakers. No matter the size of a festival, an award is an award. The filmmakers can add “Award-winning Filmmaker” to their resume and the festival can claim they gave (insert name here) their first award and first big break in the industry. It is a win-win situation.

  1. Educating the attendees – One benefit many do not realize about film festivals is the educational opportunities it presents. Most festivals hold workshops facilitated by respected film professionals in all fields. When I conduct a screenwriting workshop at a festival, I’m constantly amazed at how far people will travel for a workshop catering to their interests. Festivals also hold special screenings and programs for children teaching them about a specific aspect of filmmaking, a particular social issue or art form.

Besides all of these positives, nothing compares to attending these exceptional events in person and experiencing the fascination for yourself. Anyone who met football legend Marcus Dupree at the Delta Cinema after the screening of “The Best That Never Was” in February can attest to that fact. The Clarksdale Film Festival was a successful start in bringing all of these important elements to the city. I hope locals will continue to support and participate in its development for years to come.

Coop Cooper is a film critic and filmmaker based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.F.A in Cinema, and received his Masters in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Hollywood. You can read his past articles at: http://www.smalltowncritic.com/

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