The Film Festival Doctor (Yes, she’s a real doctor!) Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, continues to explore in further detail how film festivals are adjusting to the CV-19 pandemic. She was privileged to interview the super sweet Martina Webster; the Director of another one of her favourite film festivals Arizona’s Show Low Film Festival. Below, Martina explains how herself and her team are transforming the festival and why you should still submit your film to her…
Martina 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 Arizona?
I am a wife, mom and grandma, and figured that I would follow some of my passions – like mentoring and movies with meaning now that I am close to retirement. So now I am a producer as well as festival director. Currently in pre-production for a Christmas feature www.hashtagblessedthemovie.com.
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 Show Low film festival, which will be taking place in October?
We are planning to do a live event if permitted, as I spoke on numerous zoom panels with directors and producers and found out that they are craving to go to festivals again. Online is not the same and the connections you make in person are invaluable. I even had a film get an investor at the last festival. The personal mentoring you get, the connections, the industry workshops are needed for Indie film makers. We will observe all rules of course and I am hoping that this epidemic will have subsided by then. Plan B is to offer the film makers to have their films seen online during the days of the festival with a 50/50 split on a Pay per view type. Which is something we will offer anyhow to all films selected – it just makes sense to be able to have people all over the world being able to participate. I am stressing that this will be an OPTIONAL free thing we will over on a safe platform. We will not be doing an online festival. If we are not being able to do the live event, we will wait until next year. Of the films we have selected so far, we only had 2 people that stated they would not be able to attend or are afraid. Everyone else is ready to go. All now hinges on Arizona allowing movie theaters to be open, which should be happening in August. I do not have a crystal ball, but hopefully things will be semi normal in October.
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 whether that be partly on-line and live or on-line – do you agree and what would you add to this?
Yes, I totally agree – you are giving them advise on good festivals, and I would suggest as a producer (not festival director) to do your homework on festivals. And enter those that make sense for your movie genre. Find out if there are refunds if they cancel – and if you do not want a streaming festival, make sure you know ahead of time.
Have you received an increase in submissions for your film festival since the pandemic hit?
Not an increase, but we are the same as we were last year around this time, which to me is an increase due to the situation. It is only our 3rd year and I am pleased with our growths.
With regards to the Show Low Film Festival – what are you finding the most challenging things to figure out since the CV19 pandemic hit?
The biggest challenge will be the parties – if there is social distancing. So right now, we are making two plans – one if things are normal (they will never be normal again- but maybe close) and one plan if there is social distancing. Example 1st night Group A is having party in one place, group B in another, next night they are swapped. We will work things out to be safe. 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 Show Low film festival- what are the most positive things have occurred for the festival since the CV19 pandemic hit?
I was surprised that the sponsors are still on board with the festival. Both Cities are very supportive also as they need the tourism. As for myself, I was able to take extra time to arrange some things for the festival I had put on a back burner. We also had the time to completely re-do our website to be more user friendly thanks to my daughter Dalea. This will offer the film makers not only their own page, but a more user-friendly blog page they can share.
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?
Oh absolutely – you have to start thinking completely out of the box (which I love to do).
What are your views with regards to online film festivals?
As I stated above, the majority of people I spoke with are either against it or are not sure how they feel. There have been a lot of options for online festivals prior to the virus, I just never wanted that for us. I want that contact for the film makers. Mentor -Network – Connect is our Motto. You can’t do that online.
Do you think that industry professionals are still paying attention to film festivals and their content as they move online?
That is a truly tough question. I can’t see that and would need to see data after this year to be able to comment intelligently on this. As I see it, the whole industry and distribution is going to be completely different. As for audience, the people that go to festivals want that experience. They want that vibe. If festivals are online, they will most likely not buy a ticket.
How will you implement social distancing during this year’s Show Low Film Festival?
Again- my hopes are that there will be no mandate in October, but if there is, we can expand to ad more screening rooms in the theater and space people appropriately. Same for the workshops, we can limit the amount of people being able to enter the theater.
Thank you so much Martina for sharing such valuable insight with my reader.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me Rebekah, always a pleasure and I am looking forward to the movies you are representing!
Submissions are currently open for the Show Low Film Festival until August 16th – submit your film today 😊
Coming Next Week: I’ll be discussing the secrets to successfully networking on-line at film festivals and how to make an abundance of contacts.