Back to 2015


Festival fever in Motovun

  • Morvern Cunningham in Motovun

Morvern Cunningham in Motovun

July 2015 | Motovun, Croatia

British Council was delighted to be a partner on the Independent Cinema Office (ICO)’s fifth annual 'Developing Your Film Festival' workshop, held in Motovun, Croatia from 21-26 July. Here some of the participants tell us why it was a great opportunity to meet their peers and learn from other experts.

The training initiative (details here) is unique in helping film festival organisers, from programers to marketing experts, learn tools to build sustainable and thriving film festivals.

Sessions covered topics such as working with sponsors, developing a long-term strategic plan, growing audiences, working with the press, managing volunteers, and making best use of digital tools. Speakers represented festivals including Goteborg, Toronto, Tallinn Black Nights as well as the UK's Flatpack and Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The participants were drawn from a diverse group of festivals, including shorts festivals, genre events, and general-audience festivals in major cities. The participants were from across Europe and the event also welcomed the first American festival to participate - the Loft Film Festival in Tucson, Arizona.

British Council Film's own Wendy Mitchell joined the event to lead a session on international festival selection and while there took time out to talk to several of the UK-based participants and get their reflections on the course.

Morvern Cunningham
Glasgow Short Film Festival, Scottish Queer International Film Festival, Future Shorts Edinburgh & Glasgow

I’m involved with different film festivals at various stages of development. I feel like there are informal networks, particularly if you go to shorts film festivals or queer festivals, but I don’t know of any other formal structure like this that brings people together.

One reason I came here was looking for respite, as when you’re away you’re able to think about what you do. You're not working in a silo. You can think objectively when you get in a different space.

It was really nice to have group sessions, particularly with other people involved in shorts festivals. Or with someone like Richard Ashrowan from Alchemy - our paths have crossed before but we’ve never had a chance to talk more in depth.

The interesting thing has been a real mix of people - from different parts of the world, different ages, from different kinds of festivals at different stages of development. It's important to have this mix of people you can connect with; we want to stay in touch.

Richard Warden
Film Curator, Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival

When I heard of the course, I thought immediately, ‘I have to go to this!’ It’s great to have this camaraderie and to discover the like-mindedness of the other participants. One of the wisest moves for this event is to try to cater to festivals of relatively similar size. I didn’t feel intimidated or superior, I thought we’re all in this together. But it was good to hear about a festival that was much bigger, like Toronto’s approach to sponsorship.

It has been a lot of information coming at us during the sessions. But even when we’re networking, a lot of the talk has naturally been what we do and why and what we can do better. That social time is valuable time.

One of the best sessions for me was about strategic planning. That so often happens in the festival world, you give everything you’ve got to the festival, you collapse, you recover as best you can. You have ideas for next year, and then you just have to start at it again. That encouragement to take a deep breath and come up with some valuable approaches for the longer term that was an important reminder.

Damian Connor
Marketing Manager, Belfast Film Festival

The most useful thing is meeting other festivals. All the issues are the same, even a big festival like Toronto has similar issues. And just being here in Motovun seeing another film festival is cool.

I think there’s been a lot to take back and talk to the team and the way we do stuff. We want to professionalise our festival, and that’s about creative systems to achieve that. I really enjoyed the funding session, there are probably a lot of opportunities that we don’t make the most of. Also, how to work with the press.

I’m definitely planning to stay in touch with the other participants. There is an online network and we’ve been keeping in touch on social media. Now I have a network of connections. At home you’re on your own, so that’s why it’s important to keep the network going and keep in touch with all these guys.

Read more about DYFF here.