The Changing Landscape of Film Festivals and Their Impact on Film Promotion

The Changing Landscape of Film Festivals and Their Impact on Film Promotion

The world of film festivals is undergoing a profound transformation, with industry professionals questioning the traditional role of festivals in promoting films and reaching audiences. This article analyzes the insights shared by international executives from Unifrance, MK2, and TrustNordisk during the annual Zurich Summit, shedding light on the evolving dynamics between film festivals, press coverage, and cinema releases.

Daniela Elstner, Unifrance’s executive director, emphasized the need for adaptation to a shifting landscape, questioning the role of festivals as a means of promoting films effectively. She highlighted the importance of the press in amplifying festival presence and supporting the wider release of films. This perspective challenges the traditional belief that festival premieres are key to attracting distribution deals.

Fionnuala Jamison, managing director of MK2 and behind the recent Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” emphasized the significant impact a major international film festival win can have on attracting international audiences. In the case of Justine Triet’s film, a small test screening in the United States revealed that the Palme d’Or award was the primary motivating factor for cinemagoers. This suggests that festival accolades hold considerable influence in shaping audience behavior and interest.

The Importance of Strategic Planning

Susan Wendt, managing director of TrustNordisk, highlighted the necessity of strategic planning for a film’s entire journey, advising against merely aiming for festivals aligning with a film’s completion. Instead, she emphasized the significance of carefully selecting the right festival platforms that suit the film’s content and target audience. This approach ensures greater visibility and maximizes the impact of festival participation.

Wendt illustrated the effectiveness of strategic thinking with the example of “The Promised Land,” featuring Mads Mikkelsen. The film was strategically positioned for consideration as the Danish Oscar entry, timed perfectly to coincide with festivals such as Toronto. By gaining entry into prestigious festivals, the film garnered critical acclaim and increased visibility. This strategic approach allowed “The Promised Land” to stand out amidst tough competition.

The Jury is Out: Not All Films Are Festival-Fit

Elstner cautioned against the idea of submitting films to festivals merely with the intention of crossing international borders. Not all films are suited for festival screenings, and the decision to participate should be based on careful evaluation of a film’s marketability and fit within a festival’s programming. Festivals should not be seen as the sole or automatic path to international recognition and success.

The Future of Film Festivals

As the film industry undergoes constant evolution, the role of festivals in film promotion will continue to transform. While festivals remain valuable platforms for exposure, industry professionals must adapt their strategies to the changing landscape. Strategic planning, targeted festival selection, and the influence of festival accolades on audience behavior are all factors that play an integral role in promoting films successfully in the digital age.

The insights shared by industry executives during the Zurich Summit shed light on the shifting dynamics of film festivals and their impact on film promotion. As press coverage and strategic planning take center stage, the traditional notion of festival premieres as a promotional tool is being challenged. The Palme d’Or’s influence on audience engagement indicates that festival accolades hold significant sway over audience choices. By carefully evaluating film-festival fit and taking a strategic approach, filmmakers can navigate the changing landscape of film promotion to maximize their films’ exposure and success.


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