While there are many training opportunities on offer for filmmakers, there is only one Developing Your Film Festival. Programmer & Artistic Director for The Kids Film Festival in Poland, Joanna Żak shared with us what she learnt at the world’s only intensive development programme for film festival professionals in 2018.
Let me start with describing what kind of training opportunities are usually on offer in the film industry.
The industry puts a lot of attention on the process of filmmaking. There are many training opportunities for directors, screenwriters, producers and sales agents. But what happens when the film is ready? What kind of support, skills and knowledge can you get when you’re representing other parts of the sector? If you’re working as a cinema exhibitor you can take part in one of many Europa Cinemas programmes or CICAE courses. But if you work for a film festival, there is only one Developing Your Film Festival course.
To be fair, there are workshops for PR managers, executives or event producers, but they would be conducted by non-film organisations. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage but I see a significant gap here.
You may say that one can attend other festivals to observe their infrastructure or promotional campaigns. But we must agree that it is not the same as getting the opportunity to meet people who are behind festivals in one place, away from their day-to-day work, focused on asking questions and with their minds open to share their best practices and worst nightmares.
And this is what DYFF offers you.
This training is designed in its entirety for film festivals and includes a 360-degree look at the creation, production and organisation of a festival: starting from clarifying the mission and vision of each event, discussing the difficulties of partnerships and financing, taking you through the process of audience development, and finishing with brand building publicity. In my opinion this rich overview of all aspects of a festival really promotes cohesion and better understanding of the different festival departments, with their various needs and obligations.
Training courses such as this are always great networking opportunities. During DYFF you get to know festivals of different scales, with different local backgrounds, from all over the world and this diversity is very inspiring. Additionally, confronting each others’ experiences is undeniably one of the most valuable parts. DYFF is a unique opportunity to share ideas, discuss crucial issues like ticketing or sponsoship, compare the variety of solutions to similar problems, distance yourself from your position, redefine your attitude and learn from others.
I participated in 2018, as a new Programmer and Artistic Director of Kino Dzieci – The Kids Film Festival, younger sibling of the New Horizons International Film Festival. The Kids Film Festival is an event with a culture-building attitude. It has two main aims: first is to promote and screen important, mainly European films for children (which are usually absent from Polish screens) as widely as possible; through satellite screenings in twenty cities in Poland, distribution and a film education programme.
The second is to educate parents, teachers and cinema exhibitors on how important film is and how to use it as a tool in children’s education, psychological and social skills development and citizenship awareness. We began by producing a set of psychological analyses and educational materials to accompany the films screened at the festival to help teachers and parents use film in education and upbringing. Last year we felt that we also needed to do more to support cinema exhibitors to build their programming offer for young audiences in their towns. That is why we launched a two-day conference and workshop focused on these topics.
We take extra care of our relationships with journalists and key opinion leaders, because we still find it necessary to fight for the presence of films for children in our media and public opinion. Last year we organised a press breakfast during which we presented the programme but also held a discussion on the conditions of film for children in Polish culture, which is still not as well recognised as literature or illustration.
The changes that The Kids Film Festival implemented last year were not solely the result of DYFF (credit must go to the continuing growth of the festival), however the course helped me to make bold decisions and become more self-confident.
I truly appreciate that Developing Your Film Festival doesn’t try to give you the answers to all your problems. It gives you an overview, shows you different possibilities, forces you to set up the questions you and your team need to ask yourselves. Finding the answer is your homework, a challenging and exciting process, which I obviously recommend to everyone involved in film festivals.
Applications are open until 16 May for this year’s Developing Your Film Festival, taking place at New Horizons International Film Festival between 22-28 July.