Justin McConnell and Lora Burke on set of Lifechanger
What changed about the way you received feedback from people who watched your film at a virtual film festival than at a physical film festival? Social media was already a prominent barometer of reactions to films that played at the festival, did you note an increase in that with absence of no one being able to speak to you in person?
BT (The Paper Tigers) - Of course I love and miss the experience of showing the film in a theater and meeting the audience in person afterwards. There’s nothing as pure and instant as a crowd laughing or gasping. But it’s still great to see all the love on social media and private messages.
AH (Spare Parts) - Obviously what was missing most was hearing and seeing people's reactions to the film and then getting to talk to/meet them afterwards. Instead, all we got was the typical love/hate reactions on social media with none of the momentary glow of basking in a spotlight. Thankfully I'm in post on my third feature as we speak so we'll see what 2021 brings.
SA (APPS) - Contrary to what I thought, I had a lot of feedback on my own social networks, people who saw the Coming Soon or the WIP or the panels, contacted me in different ways and I think that has been the only wonderful thing about this pandemic. That we unite through technology seeking human connection, increasingly direct and less "formal" and distant.
LO (Animales Humanos) - There was a lot of buzz about Animales Humanos and when people knew it was premiering at Morbido a lot of people wanted to (attend). But there was a restriction due to the pandemic in terms of seats so only 40 people got to watch it out of the 250 people the theatre holds. The comments were very positive and the audience seemed to enjoy it, right now a lot of people expect to watch it in regular theatres soon.
JG (The Stylist) - We got a lot of great feedback via social media, primarily Twitter, after each screening. A lot from FrightFest and Fantastic, but we got some from each screening. It was exciting to see. Like I said previously, the biggest difference is not hearing the reactions in real time, as the movie plays VS after, and the feel you get where you just know if it was well received or not.
AW (Weirdo) - I’ve gotten a lot less feedback than usual. We’d normally hear from people at the fest who maybe saw us across the room and popped over for a quick chat, but that’s not really something that can be achieved with most current festival formats. I’m hearing the most from other filmmakers in the same blocks, which I’m stoked about regardless, it just represents a smaller (more captive) group. Social media-wise, I tend to hear a tiny bit more about the film generally, but I think for shorts, the visibility has gone down in the current format.
EK (Slaxx) - I didn’t get much direct feedback from audiences who watched Slaxx at a festival, aside from people who already knew me who sent me direct messages. I got a few FB messages from strangers, which was really great, but not that many. I don’t monitor the social media of Slaxx so didn’t have direct contact with the audience through the Slaxx page. To be honest I don’t really love being too connected to social media so I wasn’t avidly checking the Slaxx FB page for comments.
I really, really missed not having live interaction with festival audiences, other filmmakers and festival programmers. This was the hardest part of the lockdown.
JB (Frank & Zed) - We got a great reaction from social media. It really increased our presence on twitter, Facebook, and letterboxd and even got us onto TikTok. However, we certainly miss hanging out with an actual audience.
JM (Expansivas/Deeper Wounds) - Well… what is actually different is the feedback if people liked your movie, because in a movie theatre, they would come to you and tell it in your face. That warmth is lost through social networks. And since I don’t like to look for the critics for my movies, I miss the nice and kind comments. The good part is that I also miss the bad ones.
JMcC (Clapboard Jungle) - That's exactly it - the only way to judge reaction in this environment is social media, Letterboxd, IMDb, and reviews. Maybe the odd phone call. The in person communication was missed, but what can you do?
IL (Disco Graveyard) - I got more feedback online from people via social media than I likely ever would have in an in-person festival. There are times that people will tweet about your film, but usually viewers will run into you randomly at a festival and strike up a conversation. I miss those conversations, but having online validation is so lovely, too.
AM (Bleed With Me, Bloodthirsty) - It's hard for me to say as these are my first films so I don't have a benchmark to compare the experience. Most feedback we've received has been from social media, mainly Twitter. And through talking to press and critics as well, we've gotten a good sense of people's reactions. I think the main thing that's missing is feeling the audience's reaction in real time in a theatre. And then conversations at the bar afterwards!
NK (LUCKY) - Certainly social media response is one of the primary ways that we saw audience response, and of course reading reviews from critics, etc. One kind viewer took a short video of an audience applauding after the film when it screened at Sitges, which was lovely to at least have a few seconds of pretending to be in the room where it happened - ha! I'm not that active on social media, but it was good to be able to get a sense of audience reaction, though nothing will really be the same as being able to engage in organic discussions following a screening in a festival setting. Shudder did something really fun which was a secret screening of the film for their members following their live TV showing of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN - so, again, it's been nice to see fests and distributors find ways to engage while we all continue to stay distanced. I do look forward to the day we can all enjoy attending festivals again.
RE (For the Sake of Vicious) - The biggest change is that you end up receiving honest feedback sooner than one usually would. At film festivals when you watch a film with an audience there’s a certain energy and feedback you get, that though while honest, is generally jaded by the collective audience experience. Meaning it doesn’t feel the same way when you watch it at home, which is where you’ll probably get the more real experience of what you really feel about the movie. With everyone being at home and watching this on their TV’s, laptops, etc, we got that honest feedback immediately. And all of that came from social media. You could watch audience real time reactions as they live tweeted it (which is disheartening because you’d hope folks wouldn’t feel the need to be on Twitter during your movie). It also depended on the festival as well; generally the festivals that included us in the process of promoting the movie had bigger social media responses than those that did not.
GC For The Sake of Vicious) - Feedback definitely changed. We did notice the lack of conversation that comes with any festival. For example, that post-screening chat in the lobby or at the bar. Social media helped, but the motivation was lacking. What I mean by that is, when you go see a movie physically in person, there is an energy after the movie. People get their phones out and make tweets or posts with their instant reaction. That is missing, or it’s less prominent in our current virtual screening environment. This also goes to show how important it is for that communal watching experience in a theatre. It’s an energy before and after the screening that can only be felt physically, we don’t have that right now. The films and audiences are robbed of that. A major focal point of going to a festival is to be there in person, and to turn off your phone for a short period of time and connect with others. With that said, we did receive emails connecting us with people who wanted to talk about the film in an interview format, but that casual banter and natural dialogue of running into people has disappeared. Until next year.
LG (Scavenger) - When we projected the film at “Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film festival” and “Mar del Plata Film Festival” people, other directors and also producers approached me to talk not only about the film but also about the cinema in general and I consider this type of contact fundamental for our field.
On the other hand, we had an online screening at “Frightfest” and although I received messages of people with the intention of talking about the film, I think that this can't replace the experience of attending a film festival. That is irreplaceable because at the end of the day the physical experience of the film festival feels unique and exceptional while online viewing is lost in a sea of digital content in which we are actually immersed.
CC (The Oak Room, Vicious Fun) - I’m not really on social media (I leave that up to the other guys on the team), so it changed a hell of a lot for me. Being there to hear audiences’ reactions, the questions asked later on and hanging around after the screening to chat about the film obviously didn’t happen so I lost a bit of that connection with the audiences. I find the films I’ve made don’t feel completely finished until that happens. For me, that moment prompts me to start thinking about what I want to do next so, without that final stage it’s a weird feeling - like I’m still just waiting for something to arrive that I know isn’t going to show up. You can tell what the vibe is when a theatre full of people watch a film together. When everything is on-line, you’re just not too sure because you’re not sharing that experience with an audience. It’s a much different experience.
Having said that, The Oak Room in particular has really seemed to connect with audiences and took home the audience awards at both Fantasia and Grimmfest. That was great and I’m really glad the film connected with audiences at home. Hopefully Vicious Fun follows suit when it’s finally released.
CA (The Oak Room, Vicious Fun) - It’s hard because the majority of people who watch your film don’t write reviews or post on social media. Filmmakers often push people to talk about films they like while at festivals. Now your film really needs to do all the work on it’s own. It needs to make enough of an impact that the viewer feels the need to spread the word.
Indie films need every bit of support they can get to scream through the noise and this pandemic has really limited the resources filmmakers have to help support their projects in person. It’s great to read reviews and see tweets about your film but it’s often the in person conversations you get to have with the average movie lover after they watch your film that really stick with you as a filmmaker.