The Film Festival Doctor (Yes, she’s a real doctor!) Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, explores in further detail how film festivals are adjusting to the CV-19 pandemic. She was privileged to interview the awesome Sandra Lipski; Artistic Director of another one of her favourite film festivals the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival. Below, Sandra explains how herself and her team are transforming the festival and why you should still submit your film to her…
- Sandra Hi, welcome to The Film Festival Doctor’s blog 🙂 could you kindly tell my reader a little bit about yourself and your awesome film festival in Mallorca?
Sure, with pleasure! My name is Sandra Lipski I was born in Berlin and grew up in Mallorca, Spain. I love watching & making movies, organizing film festivals and happy hours. Together with my DP husband and daughter we live between Los Angeles and Mallorca. I am the founder & director of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF). EMIFF’s mission is Bridging Cultures & Bridging People, once called the Mediterranean Sundance, which I believe, perfectly conveys the type of films and filmmakers we thrive to support. Our international program presents films in all categories including feature films, short films, documentaries, animation shorts, experimental, music videos, films for Kids and a Screenplay competition. Every year EMIFF also grows its industry events called “Producers Club”, these include exciting panels, a Pitch Forum for narrative, documentary films and TV Series. EMIFF is now recognized as one of the fastest-growing film festivals in Europe, using international film to shape a creative community, allowing independent filmmakers to feel inspired, to network and thrive in this idyllic Mediterranean island paradise.
- At this moment in time the world is currently experiencing the peak of the CV19 virus pandemic – how will you be adapting this year’s evolution! Mallorca film festival, which will be taking place in October?
The COVID crisis is deeply affecting the Film Festival industry and we are all; Filmmakers and Film Festival alike, trying to adjust. So far it is business as usual at the Evolution office; our International programming team is busy viewing hundreds of submissions to prepare our 2020 program. My managing team and I are strongly hoping that our 9th edition can happen as planned; on the ground, in Palma on October 23rd-29th, 2020. However, we are very aware of the severity of the current global situation and are also looking into plan B and plan C to make sure EMIFF 2020 will take place (somehow). These plans include a possible online festival platform…or maybe even a complete Drive-In-Cinema-Festival experience. Fingers crossed that in October we can enjoy films in cinemas, while of cause practicing social distancing.
- I’ve been emphasizing to filmmakers that if they want to get their film seen on the circuit this year they should still submit to film festivals which run from September 2020 onwards as they all intend to run in some shape or form as their deadlines close around May/June time – do you agree and what would you add to this?
I completely agree with you Rebekah. Filmmakers should keep submitting to festivals, even in this difficult time. However, I would advise them to do more research before hitting that submission button. What we see a lot of is festivals postponing their dates, some festivals even cancel their event all together. This can be very frustrating to filmmakers. The trades cover news about the bigger festivals but smaller festivals usually don’t. I suggest filmmakers research the local press about a particular festival or even go one step further – email them and ask what their current status and plan is. I have answered a couple of these emails this week and actually really enjoy the conversation with filmmakers who go the extra mile.
- Have you received an increase in submissions for your film festival since the pandemic hit?
Our submission count has been pretty steady. So far, we have not seen an increase or decrease since the pandemic hit.
- With regards to the Evolution! Mallorca – Film Festival – what are you finding the most challenging things to figure out since the CV19 pandemic hit?
Communication with filmmakers is key. The challenge lies in giving out concise information about our festival’s situation and the next steps we plan to implement during this pandemic because the global situation itself is so very fragile and unsure at the moment. It is important to me that we continue to give our filmmakers the time of day, answer any questions they have and make them feel included in the process. At the end of the day we have a common goal: to promote their film and find an audience for it.
The second challenge is our continued work with our sponsors and venue suppliers. As COVID affects everyone, especially brands working in the event sector, it is imperative to start communicating early to find the best solutions together.
- Again, with regards to the evolution! Mallorca film festival- what are the most positive things have occurred for the festival since the CV19 pandemic hit?
That’s a great question because often in times like these we forget to celebrate our wins. Since the pandemic hit, we have scheduled more frequent team meetings to discuss a new social media and marketing strategy. The results are amazing; great response on social media, a growing following and increased engagement. We noticed it is also a great time to implement more IG LIVE talks with EMIFF filmmakers, other film festivals to strengthen that relationship and EMIFF award winners who add a touch of sparkle and glamour to our feeds.
- Are you finding the challenges, which you are currently facing to have brought out more creative ideas with regards to how will produce the festival?
Yes! When in crises you are pushed towards your limits. That creates pressure and out of pressure come new ideas. I think all festivals are in the same boat. We have to find a fast solution of how we best handle the crises now for our upcoming edition and we also need to figure out long time solutions.
- What are your views with regards to online film festivals?
Online festivals are a great! They add to the cultural landscape of the film industry and help globalize the independent film viewing experience. However, I don’t think they are capable of completely substituting the film festival structure, as we know it. Online will never fully satisfy the need for community and networking “After seeing a film”. I know some festivals are working on going online and implementing special chat rooms where the audience can meet even ‘after’ the Q&A and talk about the film. I like this as a short-term solution but It would be very sad to see the human to human, on the ground experience go. Festivals are special and unique not only due to their films but also because of the culture around them including location, local cuisine and local community. For EMIFF as a destination festival all those things are extremely important and our audience looks forward to them every year.
- Do you think that industry professionals are still paying attention to film festivals and their content as they move online?
Online film festivals will without a doubt gain more traction and attention in the independent film industry especially for new, first and second time filmmakers in the next months and years as more and more festivals turn to online events. I am not sure how film professionals will follow. What we recently saw after SXSW was cancelled was very interesting; the festival offered filmmakers to screen (premier) their film on amazon prime, free to the public. Not many filmmakers agreed to the offer as they felt it would decrease their chances for a big streaming platform to actually buy the film for real distribution. The final films mainly included shorts and a couple of Non-US feature films.
- How will you implement social distancing during this year’s Evolution Mallorca Film Festival?
If events are allowed to happen again in October with audiences inside a cinema, I would imagine fewer people inside the screenings to allow for proper distance between people and maybe we will add to our merchandise with some cute masks featuring the Evolution Mallorca International film festival logo.
- What are your thoughts on the upcoming ‘We Are One Global Film Festival’?
The idea of “We are One” of bringing film festivals together and forming a collaborative platform is wonderful! It forms and projects a very strong bond, not only between film festivals but also to the outside; the filmmakers, distributors and the audience. Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal said in a press release; “We Are One: A Global Film Festival unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide. In working with our extraordinary festival partners and YouTube we hope that everyone gets a taste of what makes each festival so unique and appreciates the art and power of film.” Sounds wonderful, but who does this really benefit? In the PR release Tribeca does not specify if the films screened, are from passed festival editions or if they are new films which would have premiered at this year’s festivals. ‘Just’ to screen older films, it seems like a lot of effort and more like a PR stunt to me. The main issue here though is that the content will be streaming for free online, which will make it harder for smaller festivals who are struggling to survive with an on-line festival edition this year to attract paying customers. I never support the idea of screening films for free. It brings down the value of content for everyone and makes it hard to justify payment in the future. After watching the free content, Tribeca will encourage the audience to donate to support the WHO. Can’t we let the worlds governments fund the WHO like they are supposed to and instead donate to support struggling cinemas? Just an idea.
Thank you so much Sandra for sharing such valuable insight with my reader. I also think those masks sound awesome – I would love to wear one!!
Submissions are currently open for the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival – submit your film today 😊
Upcoming submission deadlines:
- Regular Deadline: May 10th
- Late Deadline: July 12th
- Extended Deadline: August 9th
Contact Sandra Lipski: [email protected]
Coming next week – I’ll be focusing upon on-line film festival screenings and if they are problematic for your film (and I’ll be taking into account both short films and feature films) to be accepted into other film festivals.