Now that the East Winds film festival is over for another year, it’s time to reflect over all the hard work, organisation and perseverance put in by everyone involved. Before embarking on this module, I had little to no knowledge about how much work and involvement went into organising a film festival and the amount of staff it would take to get it publicised to be successful. It’s true to say that I’ve learnt so much over the duration of the module that I believe will benefit my in my forthcoming professional career.
For our module, Transcultural Distribution, we were required as a cohort to gain knowledge and understanding of how films are distributed and exhibited in relation to a Film Festival structure. We looked at how culturally and economically the film festival impacts how films are distributed and exhibited. Then ultimately use the film festival as a professional platform to exhibit our knowledge and skills to reach out to local audiences and international audiences too. Firstly it’s important to note that the East Winds Film Festival is an already established company and event. This means that we had to comply with what has already been before, holding the festival at Coventry University and exhibiting films from an East Asian background. The East Winds film festival is currently the only major film festival of it’s kind outside the capital of London and the first of it’s kind in the midlands. This is important to the ethos of the festival. Marijke de Valck wrote:
‘When one looks at the international film festival circuit from a spatial point of view, its complexity can be understood as an interrelation of the local with the global; the city with the nation; and the place of the event with the space of the media. From a temporal perspective the festivals revolve around both current affairs (programming as a politics of participation), the latest discoveries, news value, and historicity, as the oldest festivals continue to rely on their glorious pasts and a city’s history to maintain nodal positions on the circuit.’ (2007:215)
The festivals unique selling point as there is no other event that can bring what this festival promises to. As the city of Coventry is currently bidding for the City of Culture award, I think it’s important that festivals like East Winds brings something culturally alternative to the city along with the culture and history that Coventry has to offer. Also with the influx of student’s from such diverse backgrounds I think it’s significantly relevant to showcase art forms from an array of backgrounds and not solely British culture. Because the festival was already established, it has already received interest Worldwide from industry professionals this meant that we had to strive to get the festival as much attention as possible. The aim is to reach as many people through our marketing strategy online and in the community to make the festival as busy as possible. It’s said that:
‘Festivals have a number of advantages[…] in that festivals are events. And we are currently living in an event-driven culture […]Because they are events (if not spectacles, in the Debordian sense), festivals have a greater promotional budget to attract audiences’ (2009:24)
One would have hoped that if there was a low turn out overall, our opening night with typical film festival discourses such as; a red carpet, photographers, interviews and entertainment would draw in passers by looking for that ‘event-driven culture’.
To have been given the opportunity to work for and curate such a prestigious festival felt like an honour, but also a challenge. To get the festival marketed and promoted in time meant that we had to work to strict deadlines and sometimes think on our feet. The professional experience that we all gained whilst working on the festival is incredibly valuable as this is how it’s done in industry. We were all divided into teams with a different focus. As I come from a production background, it felt natural for me to apply for the role of production manager as I felt this could benefit the team to apply skills I’ve already gained. What I personally wanted to get out of this festival was experience leading a team, as someone who has previously worked alone and can sometimes find social situations intimidating, I wanted to push myself mentally and physically to not only manage myself but a team as well. I think leadership skills are invaluable when approaching a career in multiple disciplines and throughout the module I’ve broadened my knowledge both socially and technically. As aforementioned, I applied for, and received, the role of production manager and I knew how much of an important component the production would be to the overall marketing strategy for the festival. As a production team, we were in charge of coordinating the set-up of all equipment, organising the transport to locations and using the equipment and software to a professional standard. With a production role its imperative to have good time keeping and punctuality as without the production crew nothing can be captured and other people such as presenters rely on our presence. As production is an important component to the overall marketing of the festival, it’s important to be aware of our audience, keep all aesthetics consistent to comply with said marketing strategy. For instance, once we decided to go for the concept of Chinese ink paintings for the ident, it’s important to continue with that concept, which the marketing team did with the posters and flyers for the festival. As a production team we were in charge of operating all cameras for videography, all the microphones and sound recording equipment, using lighting effectively and editing all work to a high standard. I would have to say that my team were incredibly efficient with time management and presence, collecting equipment on time and being ready and set up to record on cue. All equipment was booked in advance to ensure that all other departments could meet their deadlines. Its imperative that all departments meet their deadlines so the preparation could run smoothly, with so many departments, briefs and deadlines if one team falls behind it means the whole festival can fall behind. I think that was one of my biggest concerns, because I’m not particularly good at allowing myself to rely on other people but as I discovered, the production team were reliable, consistent and did everything expected. I think perhaps that’s my biggest learning curve from the festival, putting trust in others professionally.
I think the innovative way that we have had a thoroughly professional and practical module embedded within in our course is so contemporary in such a academic context, that it allows us to expand our knowledge theoretically as well as broadening our skills professionally. I’ve always been very critical of my self and my work but over the duration of the festival I’ve learnt not to take it so personally and to see the bigger picture. I’ve learnt so many organisational and planning skills that are really going to benefit me in so many directions. The biggest achievement for me was to approachable and help members of my team recognise the confidence in themselves and seeing our progress as a team and as individuals has been so very rewarding. Having being able to rely on my production team when I was taken in bad health was a huge learning curve for me. Ching Hui especially deserves credit for being such a great support to the team and challenging herself as well as all of us to do the best job that we possibly can. I look forward to the future and using all the transferable skills I’ve gathered throughout this module and working alongside of a team in the future. I hope that the skills and techniques I’ve taught other people throughout this module will benefit me socially and help me in my aim towards becoming a teacher.
Peranson, M. (2009). First You Get the Power, Then You Get the Money: Two Models of Film Festivals. On Film Festivals. London: Wallflower.
Valck, D. M. (2007). Film Festivals: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia. Amsterdam University Press.