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Developing Your Film Festival in Motovun

Morvern Cunningham, who is involved in the management of a variety of Scottish film festivals, received a Film Hub Scotland bursary to attend ICO's Developing Your Film Festival course in Croatia this July. Here she tells us what she got from the experience...

Of particular use to me was the notion of strategising in all areas of operations, both long-term and short-term, and having consistent relations and communication with participating stakeholders.

This year, and for the fifth year in a row, the Independent Cinema Office facilitated its annual Developing Your Film Festival course as part of the run-up to the stunning Motovun Film Festival in Croatia. Situated on a mountaintop Unesco-protected village, deep in the heart of Croatian truffle country, where cars are forbidden and massage centres are in abundance, this course offered the perfect chance to escape the ongoing festival grind and reflect on things from afar.

Being involved with a number of film festivals at different stages of development (Future Shorts Glasgow & Edinburgh, Glasgow Short Film Festival and Scottish Queer International Film Festival), I was also keen to see what advice and insight the course had to offer someone with a varied background in festival management. My overpowering initial impression on arrival was that of general HEAT (not just bragging, concentrating in 38 degree heat is actually quite difficult!) but it was great to get an insight into the rest of the participants involved in the course. It turned out that we had folk taking part from all over Europe (and beyond) including Italy, Germany, Spain, France and Denmark to name but a few. (Alongside a strong Scottish and Irish contingent, which didn’t bode well for our collective livers…) It was also particularly nice to see a sizable representation of short film festivals, including Concorto Film Festival from northern Italy, Unlimited from Cologne, and Oulu Music Video Festival and Helsinki Short Film Festival from Finland.

Over the following days we were ferried between our Twin Peaks-style hotel of TopLice (pronounced Top Leach-i) with its weird artwork, fading grandeur and unintelligible breakfast seating rules to the idyllic Motovun hilltop, where we watched the final preparations for the festival (all infrastructure needs to be driven up the winding roads in a tractor). Our days were crammed with a variety of speakers on subjects such as strategic planning, communications, working with corporate sponsors and the press, audience development and programming. Our speakers were also of international repute and included Jennifer Frees (Director of Sponsorship & New Business at Toronto International Film Festival), Sten-Kristian Saluveer (Industry Director at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival) and Ian Francis (Flatpack Film Festival Director).

Of particular use to me was the notion of strategising in all areas of operations, both long-term and short-term, and having consistent relations and communication with participating stakeholders. Kristian from Black Nights had helpful tips when it came to managing email workflow via the various email plugins available online. I’m currently experimenting with what’s out there, but know that there are tools at hand which can simplify answering emails and prioritising online response and communication. It was also good to rethink relationships with potential sponsors – instead of knocking on people’s doors guiltily, cap in hand, Jennifer from TIFF empowered us to believe that, no matter our size or specialism, we had something unique to offer a sponsor and that the relationship should be viewed as an integrated partnership between both parties, each offering the other a return on investment. In fact, integrated relationships with all stakeholders was a recurring theme throughout the course, whether they be sponsors, press, team and audience members.

More than anything however, the best thing about the course was really getting away from the day-to-day routine of answering emails and getting bogged down with the responsive nature of managing projects on a regular basis. It was great to be removed from that environment to a place full of other film festival professionals who were all facing similar challenges and stresses, and be presented the opportunity to really take stock of one’s own position in relation to the work environment back home. I’m not going to lie, the massages, thermal pools and white wine spritzers helped (!), but ultimately I’m left with an experience that was as edifying as it was relaxing, with fond memories and new friends to show for it.

This post originally appeared on Glasgow Short Film Festival's blog.

17 August 2015

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