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I liked all the films especially the one for Superman [“This is Joe”] and the last one which was longer [“ Frontman ”]. I look forward to at...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Successful Film Festival Management

Happy new year everyone! New year, new beginnings, new intern!

ROFFEKE is honoured to have Joseph Ochieng as an intern. Joseph is a graduate from Kenyatta University. He majored in Screenwriting and Film Directing and minored in Audio-Visual editing, Film Festival Management, Film Adjudication, Sound design and video camera operations. Below is his first blog post for ROFFEKE.


Film festivals are events which bring together various film enthusiasts - both the established and budding film producers, directors, actors, actresses, and cinematographers - to watch a series of different genres of film in one or more cinemas or screening venues. Usually, a festival can be local or global with most being the latter.

For a festival manager, there are specific issues which if not given priority, a festival is likely to go into the gutter.

When putting up a film festival, the organizers should be cognizant of the theme on which all films should be hinged. For instance, ROFFEKE incorporates rock films, that is, films with clear rock 'n' roll themes or films with any theme but with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack. Festival organizers need to specify in time what they need the filmmakers to know about the festival.

The second question to ask yourself as a festival manager or organizer is what type of audience are you targeting with your festival? There could be a festival that is specifically for and about the victories and challenges of women (such as Udada Film Festival). A festival might be set up to address LGBTQ issues in the society or an organizer might want to put up a festival which screens films made to advocate for the rights of the millennial boy child.

Additionally, the success of a film festival depends on originality. Before putting out a festival to the multitudes out there whether it is local or internationally, do in-depth research to avoid redundancies. Every film festival should have aspects of subtlety and ingenuity. The last thing you want to do is ape the previous festival you attended and try to put up exactly that. Implement your own ideas to realize your unique vision.

The screening venue is also an important aspect to consider. Which city’s counties or theatres are you likely to woo the maximum number of the festival goers? Does your excellent venue have proximity to transport system, shops, and accommodation centers or is it near the country’s most polluted area? The superb site will attract more film enthusiasts; the average venue will be filled with only a limited number of people. Consequently, a venue also depends on the theme of the festival. Films which narrate about life in the slums might just reach the target people when screened in slum areas. (Slum Film Festival is a good example of one such film festival.)

A festival manager should source for necessary sponsors, donors, and funders who can avail finances, equipment, tickets, help in the festival advertising and take care of any other logistics. Indeed, even the world’s established film festivals have sponsors who give them necessary assistance during the festival screenings.

It is commendable to provide the information about the festival calendar including official film festival submission dates, the preliminary and final deadlines and the proper screening, judging and awarding days. Locking filmmakers in a puzzle where they are oblivious to the exact festival dates and deadlines is very unprofessional. Clear communication concerning the official festival calendar allows the filmmakers to prepare themselves for doing final touches on their films, hustling for the submission fees and arranging travel and accommodation plans. There is no magic wand required for this, just strategic planning and management.

There is need to establish a good rapport with film distributors. Do a good background check of the films that your team of jurors has given the green light. Do they have exclusive distributor agreements which your festival should know about? You cannot afford to plan the festival for a whole year then get flagged by a distributor for screening films which you do not have permission from the owners/distributors. Some distributors choose specific festivals for the movie they are in charge of so even if it is the producer or the star who submitted the film, ensure the film is free from lawsuits.

A festival should have a team committed to overseeing successful selection, screenings, awards, advertisements, bookings and extra logistics. As a festival manager, you need to do appropriate staffing for your fabulous event. The festival director needs to have a clear vision for the whole team and work closely with all the departments to ensure the smooth running of the festival. Furthermore, units like advertising, venue bookings, accounting department, licensing, transport of guests, equipment, emergency, masterclasses and workshops, food and any other logistics all require appropriate departmental heads. You need to thoroughly work with the screening department to ensure the projectors are in excellent condition; the screens are working, lighting is okay, the public address has no hitches, the film aspect ratios enable them to be projected on wide screens or cinemascope, etc.

A festival manager needs to have the license to all of the screening venues. Get the permission to use all the places to avoid being at loggerheads with the authorities. Your guests cannot come all the way from their home counties or countries then fail to watch the movies because you did not do your homework by booking the venue in time and paying the required fee!

Finally, how do you store films that the festival will screen to the public? Do you have enough storage devices like large hard drives and computers? You might want to argue that filmmakers need to carry copies of their works, but well, sometimes people don’t want to bring DVDs or flash drives to movie theatres.

Appropriate planning and strategic management should form an integral part of any film festival. Before a festival runs, the managers should do a good job regarding publicity, excellent communication, funds management, transport system and securing of venues. Most importantly, a film festival should be devoid of any a form of favoritism. Awards should be given to the filmmakers who deserve them, not those who paid something extra. Proper management ensures fewer migraines before, during and after the festival.

- Joseph Ochieng(jphochieng971@gmail.com)

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