Survey on film festivals: Stephen Follows talks to Insight

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We are delighted to have to opportunity to find out more from Stephen Follows from Catsnake Film, the online video agency, about his recent research into film festivals.

headshot-stephenSurvey links

You can read his primary research via his blog postings at his own website, Stephenfollows.com. His report comes in three parts: ‘Film festivals: The truth behind film festivals‘; ‘The economics of film festivals‘; and ‘What Festival Directors really think‘.

Interview about the survey

Stephen Follows expands on his research in conversation with Insight:

Insight: Have you any thoughts about why there has been such an upsurge of new film festivals over the last couple of years?

Stephen: The numbers can reveal a trend, but working out what is behind that trend is much harder. In statistics, a common mantra is that ‘correlation is not causation’. For example, traffic tends to slow down at the same time that traffic lights turn red, but that doesn’t mean you can infer than red lights are caused by slowing cars!

So, in the context of festivals, I can certainly see that the growth of the internet and Withoutabox seem to have happened in line with the boom in festivals. It could be argued that both have allowed festivals and filmmakers from all over the world to connect with each other, in a way that wasn’t previously possible.

Insight: Why do film festivals fail?

Stephen: Good question. It seems to me that film festivals need s huge amount of hard work and determination to make them happen. The money isn’t really there to be able to have enough staff or resources, so it’s always an uphill struggle. Festivals seem to finish when the founder members run out of steam or their lives take different paths.

Insight: Why was 2009 the peak year for new festivals and why was there a slump in new festivals in 2012?

Stephen: I can’t know for sure, but I would guess that it’s related to the boom that preceded it. With the proliferation of festivals since around 2004, the exclusivity of being selected for a festival must have taken a dent. Coupled with the global financial crisis – remember, for most people, filmmaking is an expensive hobby – film festivals became less attractive to set up. I’d love to know how the numbers of submissions changed over this period, but sadly I don’t have a data source for that.

Insight: Why do so many film festivals only run once?

Stephen: Running a festival is a labour of love – and an exhausting one at that. You have to be slightly bonkers to start a festival and even more so to do it again every year. Thank goodness such people exist in the world!

Insight:  Is a ‘year-round festival’ really a festival?

Stephen: Personally, I tend to agree with you, but I tried to be impartial in the survey.

Insight: What is the attraction of short films for festivals?

Stephen: In a two-hour slot, a festival can screen either one feature film or around ten short films. Those short films would each bring ten sets of filmmakers, ten sets of PR opportunities and ten different artistic visions to the event. Not to mention that I’m sure there are far more short-filmmakers around with money to spend on festival entry fees than there are feature filmmakers with cash to spare.

Insight: Why do you think North America has so many film festivals?

Stephen: The movie business is a hugely American business, and always has been. There is a strong movie-going culture and a commercial willingness to organise  film festivals.

Insight’s guest interview policy

The Insight Film Festival publishes interviews on our blog from guests of interest on an ad hoc basis. The Festival is delighted to publish a range of interview pieces on the themes of film and faith, and other subjects, but the personal views expressed in such articles do not reflect the views and opinions of the Insight Film Festival itself, which is an organisation that comprises individuals of many different faiths and none, all of whom have their own personal views and opinions on films, faith and other subjects.