If there’s any highly anticipated annual occasion that’s of the same caliber as the holiday season, it would undoubtedly be film festival season; celebrated not just by the media and entertainment industry but also by film fanatics across the globe.
Film Festivals are the gateway and avenue that bridge all facets of the entertainment industry from emerging and veteran filmmakers to industry executives and to an audience. It showcases short and feature films from international and domestic filmmakers hoping to expose fresh talent and unique voices to the world.
Tracking Its Origins
If you’re feeling ambitious enough to experience every film festival across the globe, it’d probably take you decades to check each one off your bucket list. It’s quite amazing how every country, no matter how big or small, has their own film festival that caters to every type of filmmaker and storytelling. However, the three famed festivals that constantly create pandemonium in the entertainment industry are none other than the Venice, Cannes, and Berlin International Film Festivals.
It’s quite amazing how every country, no matter how big or small, has their own film festival that caters to every type of filmmaker and storytelling.
Its roots began in the beautiful city of Venice Italy in 1932, known today as the Venice International Film Festival. The world’s oldest film festival is celebrated yearly from late August to early September on the island of Lido. It is part of the Venice Biennale, an exhibition founded by the Venice City Council highlighting extraordinary masterpieces and artists in art, dance, architecture, music, theatre, and cinema. The first film screened at the non-competitive festival was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and was directed by Rouben Mamoulian. After a couple of years its participants grew from nine to nineteen countries and was fully transformed into a competitive event. Due to its popularity, it was decided to become an annual affair attended by approximately 50,000 filmmakers, industry professionals, and cinephiles.
In 1946, the first Cannes International Film Festival was held and joined by twenty-one countries. The Minister for Education and Fine Arts, Jean Zay, approved its establishment when French diplomat and historian, Philippe Erlanger, proposed that France should have an annual festival that celebrates the art of cinema across the globe and supersedes the political agenda of fascists, particularly Mussolini who controlled and took advantage of the film festival scene in Venice. The first film that was screened before the French government put a halt to the festival, due to the war terrorizing Europe, was William Dieterle’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Today, Cannes still maintains its title as the world’s most prestigious annual festival in May.
…Philippe Erlanger, proposed that France should have an annual festival that celebrates the art of cinema across the globe and supersedes the political agenda of fascists…
The Berlin International Film Festival was formed to bring light and provide a platform for the public to celebrate diversity, freedom of expression, and artistic exploration of social issues during the Cold War in 1951. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) was the film that opened the festival in June. Today, the festival is held every February and remains true to its purpose of discovering new talent, daring stories, stylized pieces, and bridging the gap between filmmakers and their audiences.
The European film market remarkably laid the foundations of the highly-creative films and festivals we enjoy today. Inspired by their success and positive impact around the world, North America started their own film festivals that ultimately changed the landscape of independent filmmaking. The first and longest running short film festival was inaugurated in 1947 and is known as the Yorkton Film Festival, but the first and oldest festival to show features began in 1952 and is popularly known as the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. Years later, prominent festivals such as Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, Tribeca, Telluride, SXSW, and Palm Springs became life-long goals and sanctuaries for filmmakers and industry professionals to establish and make a name for themselves in this highly competitive industry.
What’s The Big Deal?
The film festival circuit has been a fundamental part of the film industry for decades because of the wide array of opportunities it offers. While film festivals could be heavy on the pocket, especially if you’re a budding independent filmmaker, it is a huge investment that can pay off significantly in the long run.
Some of the notable and award-winning filmmakers today such as Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, and Morgan Spurlock all had their big breaks when their films debuted at Sundance. Financiers, acquisition executives, producers, distributors, managers, and agents – an influential audience so to speak – constantly attend festivals to discover new talents and material to pick up and develop for a wider audience. Filmmakers who have the so-called currency or perceived value they earn from film festivals such as awards, nominations or simply the opportunity to have their films screened, have higher chances of being recognized and offered projects and deals at a studio or productions company.
Film festivals also provide an interactive space wherein filmmakers are able to network and converse with the audience to further discuss the intricacies of the story and gain insider knowledge as to how they were able to put the pieces of their films together through Q&As. This allows the audience to see the film in a different light as well as help the filmmakers understand the impact their stories have on the people in the industry and from all over the world.
While film festivals could be heavy on the pocket…it is a huge investment that can pay off significantly…
A valuable aspect of film festivals is its ability to encourage tourism, which in turn boosts a country or a town’s economy beyond ways we could imagine. Millions of dollars are brought in to cities such as Utah for Sundance, Austin for SXSW, Tribeca for New York, and Toronto for TIFF, among others, which greatly contributes to the locals’ livelihood, infrastructures, and various community programs.
Breaking in the entertainment industry entails a copious amount of failure, rejection, sleepless nights, hard work, tears, and what not. There is no movie magic, camera tricks, or secret short cut to make it in the industry, it is only through having unwavering perseverance, a positive mindset, and unimaginable creativity that make it possible for a dreamer to turn their vision into reality. It’s not a race, but a long, winding, and unforgettable journey. Make the most of what film festivals have to offer because it has a proven track record of launching careers and creating legends that leave an influential legacies that inspire and change the lives of today and tomorrow’s generations through the power of film.