Three ideas you should steal from the Sydney Film Festival 2014

Photo by  Mark Gambino .

Photo by Mark Gambino.

Rima Sabina Aouf and Sarah Ward, writing for Concrete Playground Sydney:

Because cinephilia isn't all about sitting quietly in the dark, the Sydney Film Festival has the SFF Hub. This year the Hub is not only returning for a third time but expanding its presence at the Town Hall to encompass the Treasury Room upstairs from June 5-15.
As well as its scintillating lineup of talks and performances, it's decked out with designer furniture showcasing the legacy of the Eameses, a TITLE pop-up shop, Gelato Messina cart, vintage photo booth, the festival's discount ticket booth — everything you need to enhance your SFF experience and stretch your legs, eyes and mind between movies. Here are the five Hub events not to miss.

Here's a little secret: film festival directors everywhere are killing themselves to make their events "more than just a movie." (After all, the experience of watching a movie can be reproduced at home, right? Wellll. . . let's argue about that later. The point is, film festivals know they need just a little bit more than the film itself to get people out of their homes and into the theater.)  Articles like this one make me think "damn, why didn't I come up of that?" right before I steal the idea outright. (With all due credit, of course.) That Viewmaster thing, that's brilliant. 

As a filmmaker, you should do everything in your power to create a compelling live component that can accompany your screenings. Use it to sweeten the deal so festivals will program your film, or mention it after an invitation as an incentive to provide you with travel funds. Hell, do it because it will get more butts in the seats at your screening instead of the zombie flick playing across the hall.

Stuck for ideas? Here are three things mentioned in the article linked above that you can adapt to your own needs.

  1. Go old school. The Vladmaster viewer event taps into the childhood nostalgia of using those old Viewmaster toys and turns it into a grown-up shared experience. Find the aspect of your film that taps into a common memory, cultural touchstone, or childhood experience and find some way to express it in the physical world. Tchotchkes and props -- even small, inexpensive ones -- can be a great way to draw attention to your screening or provide a memento of  the experience that generates word of mouth.
  2. Start a fight. Notice how the conversation between two film critics with differing opinions is positioned as a "death match?" Humans pay attention to conflict -- even staged, tongue-in-cheek conflict. If your film has differing points of view, highlight them by inviting people to your screening to represent those points of view. Then put them front and center at the Q&A to get the sparks flying. Don't forget to publicize the possibility of said sparks before the screening itself. 
  3. Throw a party. It doesn't have to be a big, flashy party with an open bar and a band (as with the Freak Me Out Disco party mentioned in the article), but if you can bring an element of performance to your screening, people will talk. At film festivals I've seen weight lifters, jugglers, musicians, poets, and various forms of animal life. Now maybe none of that describes what is possible with your film, but if one of your actors does killer celebrity impressions or a few great minutes of standup, you may not need anything else.

Got great ideas for live components to accompany your screening? I want to hear about them. Email me.