This is first of a new series of blog posts on the fate of film festivals and non-theatrical exhibition in the age of COVID-19. Please email comments and questions to [email protected]. (Also, please scroll down for a running list of canceled/postponed festivals.)
If you know The Film Collaborative, it’s likely you know that we are an Industry leader in distributing films across the global Film Festival circuit. We do this for a variety of sound business reasons relating to sales, marketing, and revenue…but we also do it because we believe it is important. Film Festivals are an elegant and intimate form of public gathering, and they are where we in the indie film world go to pay homage to our life’s work, to share our stories, our important social messages, and to achieve a sense of community.
If ever you doubted why public gatherings are important, now you know. Recently in California (where The Film Collaborative is based), a state-wide order was issued to “shelter-in-place,” meaning, of course, we are to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This same thing is almost certainly happening in your town, your city, or wherever you are reading this. And so today, as you know, we are glimpsing a world where public gatherings are no longer possible—including film festivals, screening series, art house theatre bookings, university screenings, museum presentations, community screenings, NGO & human rights conferences, scientific/environmental/academic conferences, and all the many other kinds of public assembly venues that The Film Collaborative regularly services.
A quick reminder of how we got here. On March 6, the annual tech, music, education, and film meet up collectively known as SXSW collapsed under the weight of growing health concerns around the spiking number of COVID-19 cases in Washington State, major sponsor withdrawals, and fierce public outcry. At the time, to me at least, it seemed more like a hugely significant blip on the radar—and as much a public relations gambit as a serious effort to safeguard the public—than the sounding of the death knell it would prove to be.
Only five days later, on March 11, the drip-drip of worldwide festival cancellations began to cascade into a torrent, at which point we at The Film Collaborative began to track the number of festivals with TFC Films that were being canceled as they happened, and reporting them to our filmmakers nearly every day. You’ll see the tally that has followed in the black box below this article…
Even a quick glimpse reveals the horrific situation. Nearly every continent represented. Nearly every festival between now and early June, canceled, so far. Some of the greatest totems of contemporary film culture…Cannes, Tribeca, Hot Docs, San Francisco Film Festival, etc. No end in sight. No adequate words to summarize or quantify any of it.
We at TFC alone have canceled more than 250 bookings of our films scheduled for this Spring. These are not just bookings, these are the expressions of our filmmakers’ lives, their art, their craft, their commerce. The loss is, well, incalculable. And yet, it must be noted, perhaps it is all also NOTHING compared to the devastating loss of life, health, and economic activity being experienced now by nearly everyone, everywhere.
So what comes next?
As we move into uncharted territory, what are the marching orders for today’s filmmakers as they attempt to navigate a new virus-laden terrain? Are there proactive strategies for surviving and even thriving on this new front, or do we bide our time and temporarily concede to powerlessness in the face of a shadow combatant we cannot yet control?
How do we get through this?
I’ll conclude here today by saying that obviously nobody actually knows, whether they are so-called “Industry experts” or laypeople. Nothing I can write here should be construed as “fact,” only best guesses and informed opinion.
What I do know, is that these are perilous waters and if we are to explore them, we must come together as a community to do so. And I also know…
This. Is. Important.
We would LOVE to hear from you as this Blog Series movies forward. Please email us with any comments or questions at [email protected], or respond to the original social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. We will gather responses and plan to post a new blog on this topic every few days in the coming days and weeks.
March 20th, 2020
Reprinted with the permission of
©Jeffrey Winter, The Film Collaborative