QuARTSantine: OXFF and other FFs and the PandemONIUMic – Melanie Lynn Addington

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It feels like March 12 was years ago now. That was the day the Governor of Mississippi limited any events that assembled 250 people or more. It was 6 days before our 2020 Oxford Film Festival was supposed to happen. And then it wasn’t happening anymore. That felt like the end of the world at the time.

Since then, instead, the film festival community has worked non stop to rally as over 150 film festivals scheduled for the spring and summer have had to cancel, postpone or go online.

Through all the disappointment and disruption, regional film festivals have banned together and are reaching out and figuring out what is next for their organizations and more importantly their filmmakers.

Hundreds of filmmakers were set to have premieres of some sort this spring. Now so many are on hold.

Eighty-one film festivals joined the Film Festival Alliance call that took place on Friday March 27 to talk best practices and strategy moving forward. Part of the alliance’s mission is to support mission-driven film festivals and the organization has brought us all together in meaningful ways the past few weeks. Our focus is on taking care of our filmmakers at this time, while also trying to survive this shutdown and social distancing both as organizations and as people.

Creative partners have been talking non-stop coming up with creative solutions both temporary and long term to keep the independent film world alive. There have been so many different solutions brought on to the scene in just a couple of weeks, and there will be many others that will be launching in the weeks to come.

At Oxford Film Festival, we’ve found some ways to soften the blow, providing support to filmmakers, their films and independent filmmaking, while offering engagement to our festival’s huge (and understandably disappointed) community of followers, both local and around the globe.

For example, in lieu of the cancelled week-long festival screenings, we presented live Facebook world premieres of films that were produced by kids during our summer camp program, and of our annual community-made film which we we help to produce and fund each year.

We are also working with Eventive to host a virtual film festival, and we are holding deliberations with the juries so we can still present awards and host the awards ceremony. We also have begun moving towards more free online events, like our watch party for Spenser Confidential and the Zoom chat with Ace Atkins, and screenings of other programmed films.

And, we, like many art houses and festivals, are partnering with various distributors for online rentals of films that will help greatly to support the festival.

As for other inventive initiatives, Ann Arbor Film Festival was one of the first festivals to go virtual and shined as a great example of how to do it. Cleveland International Film Festval is going virtual. And looking to the audiences, several festivals have shared insights about how to attend a film festival virtually on an especially informative The Fog Of Truth podcast.

Film Festival Alliance has organized an Independent Film Day to take place on April 11, and has invited any art house or film festival to participate. Criterion launched a new initiative to save art houses. During March, Women Make Movies presented a great line up of films online.

The Seed&Spark pledge is a crucial step to make sure that filmmakers are taken care of with premiere status, distributor rules and more and if a festival isn’t on that yet, encourage them to take part.

This is a new world and one with many new complications including how distributors will work with these films, the safety of the films with geo blocking and restrictions of access. We may none of us be perfectly adept at this, but there is a huge collective effort to make sure filmmakers don’t get the raw end of the deal. If anything, our industry thrives on creative chaos and this will be like nothing before in spurring industry-wide innovation.

But that is all just sort of an overview of the facts. On the emotional end of things, I speak for myself only to say that every day is pretty much every range of emotion. From worrying about others and concerns raised by what is in the news, to constant checking of my own temperature to focusing way too much on the possible outcomes and what ifs, I can note that my only relief is in art. I turn to a book, a podcast, music, a show or a movie to find relief from the daily stressors. And while my own film festival, Oxford in Oxford, Mississippi, was postponed only days before it was supposed to happen, the creative ways in which we are trying to find solutions is something that every arts organization is doing. We have to believe that independent filmmakers deserve to thrive after this harrowing period of pandemic is over.

At the moment, we are still in an uphill battle. The organizers of Film Festival Database are doing their best to keep up to date with new dates, postponements and cancellations. As of this writing, 179 film festivals across the breadth of the nation have been impacted. By the time this article is published, that number may well be out of date.

ABOUT MELANIE LYNN ADDINGTON: Melanie has worked with Oxford Film Festival since 2006 in various capacities and became Executive Director in August 2015. She serves on the Mississippi Film Alliance as President. She co-founded OxFilm, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s program to lend equipment to Oxford filmmakers. She’s also a film producer and writer best known for I Didn’t Do It (2015), S for Sally (2013) and Where I Begin (2011).

ABOUT OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL: Founded in 2003, the Oxford Film Festival celebrates the art of independent cinema. Through year round programming, the festival works to encourage filmmaking in Oxford and North Mississippi while growing understanding of cinema through screenings, workshops and educational programs, culminating in the annual five day festival held in March. The festival exhibits over 200 quality films from across the globe and has been praised for its hospitality.

LIST OF FILMS FESTIVALS IMPACTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC:
Cinequest
South by Southwest Film Festival
Light Field
San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
Sun Valley Film Festival
GLAS Animation Film Festival
Albany Film Fest
Houston Jewish Film Festival
Cleveland International Film Festival
Green Mountain Film Festival
Indie Grits
Poppy Jasper International Film Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Sleeping Giant Fest
SONscreen Film Festival
Wisconsin Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival
Ebert Fest
Boston International Film Festival
JFilm Festival
Hill Country Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival
Orlando International Film Festival
Provincetown Film Festival
Watsonville Film Festival
Laugh or Die Comedy Fest
Portland International Film Festival
New York International Children’s Film Festival
Aspen Shortsfest
RiverRun International Film Festival
Ashland Independent Film Festival
Rainier Independent Film Festival
Taos Shortz Film Fest
Fargo Film Festival
Do It Your Damn Self National Youth Film Festival
Speechless Film Festival
Earth Day Film Festival, The
Miami Film Festival
Ann Arbor Film Festival
Annapolis Film Festival
By Design Film Festival
Garden State Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
New York City Short Comedy Film Festival
NYC Short Documentary Film Festival
Ivy Film Festival
Pasadena International Film Festival
Reel Work labor Film Festival
Mountainfilm
Soul 4 Reel Film Festival, The
Post Alley Film Festival
Houston Comedy Film Festival
Austin Comedy Short Film Festival
Big Easy International Film Festival
Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival
Indy Film Fest
Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival
Bentonville Film Festival
Newport Beach Film Festival
Las Vegas Black Film Festival
qFLIX Philadelphia
Motor City Nightmares International Film Festival
Seattle Black Film Festival
Manhattan Film Festival
Julien Dubuque International Film Festival
Charlotte Black Film Festival
Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival
Women’s Film Festival, The
San Diego Arab Film Festival
Treasure Coast International Film Festival
Global Cinema Film Festival of Boston
HorrorHound Weekend Film Festival
Universe Multicultural Film Festival
Los Angeles Greek Film Festival
New York City Independent Film Festival
Hollywood Comedy Shorts
Irish Film Festival Boston
ME Film Festival
Harvard College Film Festival
Arizona International Film Festival
Blackbird Film Festival
Athens International Film + Video Festival
Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival
Berkshire International Film Festival
Women’s Film Festival
Wasatch Mountain Film Festival
FilmFort
Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival
American Documentary and Animation Film Festival
Tiburon International Film Festival
International Oceean Film Festival
Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival
San Diego Latino Film Festival
Gasparilla International Film Festival
CineKink NYC
Oxford Film Festival
SR Socially Relevant Film Festival
Underexposed Film Festival yc
Martha’s Vinyard Film Festival
Nevada Women’s Film Festival
New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival
New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
Queens World Film Festival
Chicago Comedy Film Festival
Method Fest Independent Film Festival, The
Tiny Dance Film Festival
Seattle Jewish Film Festival
New York City International Film Festival
Boston Underground Film Festival
New Directors/New Films
Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival
International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival
Phoenix Film Festival
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Trenton Film Festival
Vail Film Festival
Maryland International Film Festival
Sarasota Film Festival
Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Italian Film Festival USA
Media Film Festival
Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival
ACT Human Rights Film Festival
Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival
Capital City Film Festival
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival
North Hollywood CineFest
Everett Film Festival
Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival
Deaf Rochester Film Festival
Experiments in Cinema
Tribeca Film Festival
CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival
Chicago Latino Film Festival
OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival – Miami
Tupelo Film Festival
Florida Film Festival
Independent Film Festival of Boston
FilmFest DC
Monadnock International Film Festival
New York Indian Film Festival
FilmOut San Diego LGBTQ+ Film Festival
Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival
Montclair Film Festival
Nantucket Film Festival
DTLA Film Festival
Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival
Bethesda Film Festival
Dallas International Film Festival
Washington Jewish Film Festival
ClexaCon Film Festival
Bonebat “Comedy of Horrors” Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
Southern Arizona Independent Film Festival
Freep Film Festival
Milwaukee Underground Film Festival
Kansas City Film Fest
Chicago Underground Film Festival
Richmond International Film Festival
Tallahassee Film Festival
Azalea Film Festival
Salem Film Fest
Sonoma International Film Festival
SOMA Film Festival
Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival
Maine Jewish Film Festival
Scout Film Festival
Beverly Hills Film Festival
Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival
Rockland Jewish Film Festival
Houston Latino Film Festival
Chattanooga Film Festival
Worldfest-Houston International Film & Video Festival
Detroit International Festival of Animation
International Wildlife Film Festival
Greenwich International Film Festival

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