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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Ted Hope
December 3, 2012 1:56 PM
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Ted Hope Says To Best Serve Audiences, Film Festivals Need A Reboot

We are shifting from a business model structured around starting over again and again with each new film and moving to one based on forging an ongoing relationship with fans, audiences, and communities, one no longer dominated exclusively by the feature film form. When it is not about the individual movie, but about an overall relationship between creators and appreciators, what is the festival’s role?

Recognizing these profound changes, we must ask: “How are we in film-festival land affected by this total paradigm shift?” If we truly recognize where we are standing, we might only then know where we can lead.

The San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in America. Fifty-six years! Back in 1957, you could not yet see international film virtually everywhere in the United States. Yet 25 years ago, when I moved to NYC, I did find it easy to enjoy a steady of diet of uniquely seasoned foreign film offerings. Nonetheless, a buffet like a film festival was still a time to feast and celebrate. There was no question why film festivals mattered or what they needed to become.

Seven years ago, the biggest film festival in the world launched, offering the greatest degree of community participation and media democracy yet implemented:YouTube. Four billion videos per day are streamed. Quality may be an issue, but they filled a need we seemingly missed. Five years ago, cable VOD platforms offered 50 or so new films a month; today we get thousands. And still 27 films a week still open in NYC. San Francisco and the Bay Area now host over 80 film festivals throughout the year. How do we ensure that film festivals truly matter in this over-saturated environment of infinite options?

We all know that movies matter. We have given our labor to the only art form that brings people together, inspires, educates and challenges them. Movies build bridges of empathy across vast divides of difference. Movies make the world a better place. By choosing to run film festivals, we have acknowledged firsthand the importance of cinema, but are we contributing enough to save it, to push it forward? Are we on the bus or are we part of the problem?

How do we ensure that film festivals truly matter in this over-saturated environment of infinite options?

I was asked to come speak to you today about where we can take festivals, what are the boundaries and how far can we go, but to begin to answer that, we have to look first at ourselves. And I too have to look directly at myself and my behavior.

I have a HD projector in my home. I have streaming galore. I realized over a year ago that I have already pre-selected everything I want to watch not just in the near future, but so far beyond that if I am able to maintain my maximum rate of consumption every year for the rest of my life, my bucket list of movies carries me almost to 10 years past the date of my life expectancy. I am living in the middle of a glorious, self-programmed nonstop film festival. Just like anyone else who wants to can be. Is this even a good thing? Is cinema about watching alone or even with just a few? I know you don’t need the answer on this one.

Three months ago, after producing close to 70 films that generally dared to take real chances and reach high, I decided I could do more to help the culture I love by stepping out of my producer shoes and sitting down around the table with all of you. Film festivals gather all the people who care about films, who absolutely adore the cinema experience, together. That is an untapped power. Film festivals are an incredible opportunity to engage with all of our culture’s stakeholders and to ask “What do we want film festivals to be?” and “What do we need film festivals to be?”.


  • Alexia Anastasio | December 7, 2012 2:38 PMReply

    My favorite film festival that I went to with my film, Adventures in Plymptoons! by far was Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm, WI, education, time for the filmmakers to have a roundtable discussion and workshop their projects and goals of their projects with others and a heart felt community. I wish all film festivals could be as awesome as Flyway, Note: I do put Boulder and Sarasota as close seconds. Now you can see my film on the film festival that is HULU and Amazon.

  • Patryk Rebisz | December 5, 2012 9:41 PMReply

    With prevalence of content it's easier to decipher patterns - so you had a whole army of indie filmmakers who looked at the patterns and said "I should do it like that too if i want to succeed!" - even though they should say "this is what i should NOT do." Madness. And thus you end up with cookie-cutter films that even the 12 year old can't enjoy... Which they shouldn't. The world is more complex then it has ever been if the filmmakers understood that and thus made films that reflects our current reality (as my starts up production company is trying to do) then the non-12-year-old would still enjoy watching film. Smart films will find audiences, if for no other reason that by not trying to cutter to the imbeciles in the audience they would be original.

  • Tyler | December 3, 2012 6:43 PMReply

    Just this weekend I saw a small film festival that showed signs of igniting this reboot. The Unofficial Google+ Film Festival ( brought the film festival experience to a worldwide online audience complete with live-streamed shorts, webseries, filmmaker panels, etc. The festival obviously has a long way to go before entering the mainstream, but shows extreme potential for breaking the mold of the festival experience.

  • Grace | December 3, 2012 4:37 PMReply

    I'm a mfa film school grad from NYU, and I don't like movies anymore - they don't speak to me - let along a 12 year old. Maybe if the industry isn't reaching 12 year olds, it could focus on speaking to once upon a time film lovers. Twitter, technology none of these things seem to bring people closer or help to make better movies.... maybe if the business of show wasn't so costly - or if business wasn't dominating the show.... I always think of Robert Evans - what did he know about running a studio - nothing - that's maybe why Paramount "produced" so many legendary films. I say throw all the bums out - it doesn't seem to me that festivals have shown any more equality than big business. Everyone talks about how great it is that people can make movies alone in their bedrooms - you could have fooled me - I don't know who dreams of being a filmmaker anymore - I certainly don't...a lot of fuss for nothing it seems as they don't reflect a world in which I'm interested. My imagination is free. I remember thinking everything I knew about love and madness and the intricacies of other lives, I learned from the movies. Deer Hunter, Woman Under the Influence, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Conformist, Godard's, Breathless, The Godfather, Chinatown; the list is endless. Can you imagine if this was what kids growing up now say looking back .... good on a 12 year old for knowing that he ain't going to learn it at the movies today.

  • Tabitha C. | December 3, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    I wonder about this myself. I think it's interesting that you call Youtube the largest film festival - I can certainly see that. So many of the film festivals I have participated in as an Indie actor have been screened through youtube, though certainly not all. Some are encased totally in the site.

    An example - in two weekends, I'm going to be a part of 48 Go Green ( This is a great little film festival for those of us who are trying to get a portfolio together, because at the very least we leave with that much. We've got chances for more - it's a competition not only a festival. This is a unique approach to the open source market - trying to bring in amateurs in a world where competing in Hollywood is just so hard. And so many of us just want to share our story, you know? Doing something like that that focuses on ecology and gives you a chance to get your face out there - well, like I said, it's just the example I can use this week! :)

    The old paradigm is changing, that's for sure, and we're on the cusp.