Coronavirus and Cancelled Film Festivals: Where to Now?

coronavirus SXSW(1)

Last year was my first experience with SXSW, albeit in a remote capacity. Film Sprites PR was providing social media marketing for independent film Alice in the run-up to and duration of the Festival. The micro-budget first feature from Josephine Mackerras would win Best Narrative Feature and the inaugural CherryPicks Female First Award. It was a true honour to assist a filmmaker in an arena like SXSW; a Festival I had long admired.

News of the cancellation of SXSW 2020 hit me harder than I’d expected. I didn’t have any films in the Festival (either as a publicist or producer), but my heart immediately went out to every filmmaker whose film had been selected for the Festival this year. In particular, reading filmmaker Cooper Raiff’s comments in the IndieWire article about the cancellation put a huge lump in my throat. I think my heart broke further for filmmakers in that moment.

In addition to SXSW, there has also been the cancellation of the Cleveland International Film Festival, also due to Coronavirus. This, and the cancellation of SXSW 2020 is a wise decision from a disease control point-of-view, but let’s face it: it sucks. It’s a terrible situation to be in if you’re a filmmaker whose film was selected; especially if it’s your first film or your first time being selected for a Festival (or both).

EDIT: at the time of posting, the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Full Frame Festival and the New York Children’s Film Festival had also cancelled their events due to COVID-19 fears. Denmark’s Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival has cancelled their physical event and is now planning a virtual stand-in.

So what can we do as a community to assist these filmmakers?

Thankfully the response has been overwhelming. Here’s a few alternatives that have arisen as a response to the SXSW cancellation (note: I will be adding to these regularly as new initiatives arise):

– On Twitter, the #SXSW2020 hashtag has yielded an incredible amount of reviewers who have offered to review and promote films which were going to be screened at the Festival. If you had a film that was playing at the Festival, search the hashtag and you’ll find some really thoughtful reviewers who want to help boost the signal. As I stated above, there are several other Festivals which have also been cancelled, so I encourage people who had films in these Festivals to also do a Twitter search based on posts about these Festivals to see if there are reviewers wanting to also boost the signal.

Stage 32 is offering a place to showcase SXSW 2020 projects. Stage 32 has “a global community of over 600,000 members, which includes distributors, buyers and sales agents, as well as hundreds of executives and educators who work with Stage 32 including managers, agents, financiers, development execs, and producers.” There is no fee for this service.

– If you run a film review site and haven’t offered to showcase selected films from cancelled Festivals, please think about doing so. Many Festival selections receive a boost from not only their selection at a Festival, but the reviews they receive. It’s also a great opportunity to forge a relationship with up-and-coming filmmakers and support their work going forward.

– If you have a film which was scheduled to play at any of the cancelled festivals mentioned above, contact us with your film’s trailer, your social media handles and a press kit and we will boost the signal through our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  (please note: will will only be doing this for films that were selected to be shown at the Festivals above at this stage). If you have an initiative to assist these filmmakers, please also feel free to get in touch and we’ll update this post with the details.

Women and Hollywood wants to help filmmakers affected by the cancellation of SXSW or other Festivals; helping to amplifying crowdfunding campaigns to help recoup any losses due to cancellations. They will be publishing weekly crowdfunding features highlighting projects by and/or about women that have been impacted by a coronavirus-related cancellation.

And whether you’re a filmmaker or not: please take care of yourself. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. And let’s not stockpile toilet paper!

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