A Virtual Celebration

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

Although it’ll be vastly different, this year’s Out On Film festival has still managed to collect more than a 125 entries for a full 11-day festival – and it’s all virtual! Peach spoke to festival director, Jim Farmer, about challenges and positive outcomes of this year’s festival.

The Out On Film festival is going to look very different this year. Tell us about the journey and decision to go all virtual?
Earlier this year Out On Film got the news that we had become an Oscar® qualifying film festival and we wanted to make this a celebratory year and give back to the community. When COVID-19 hit we had to give serious thought on how we wanted to proceed and after some thought realized we could still do a splashy virtual event. We started doing online events in the summer and the response from patrons was positive. We are doing a virtual event this year, as well as one drive-in event.

Has the global pandemic and the concurrent movement towards police brutality and racial injustice impacted the selection of films for this festival?
Towards the end of our submission process we did receive some COVID-era films and are even showing one, a short film called “Contained.”

Obviously, having to cancel the in-person event has been the negative of this film festival. What has been a positive outcome?

Patrons have been very grateful that we are still able to produce. Many festivals have canceled this year and others have scaled back. We are doing a traditional festival with the same number of days and amount of programing.  An online event gives people more flexibility in when they can watch. For the most part, all of this year’s films are available for 72 hours and can be watched any time during that period. As well, an online world gives us more access to filmmakers that we might not have had access to before. We are trying to take advantage of that.

And why do you think people, in general, need a free and frivolous video podcast like yours in this day and age?
Not all of our films are frivolous and carefree. Some dig deeper and deal with issues of the day. But movies allow us to escape and forget what is going on elsewhere in the world.

Looking towards next year, do you think there will an in-person film festival? Or maybe a combination of booth in-person and virtual?
We hope there will be an in-person festival next year. We’ll have to gauge what is going on in the world. We all miss the human connection; not being able to see our patrons and filmmakers is sad. But we have Zoom for those purposes in the interim. Honestly, I think an online component of Out On Film will have to be a part of who we are moving forward, regardless of when we get back to “normal.”

How do you think the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement will impact the creativity and creative spark of future filmmaking?
I think it will have a serious effect. People are mad and confused now and need to get their voices heard. Filmmaking is a way to tell your story and get your voice out there.

What do you look forward to when this pandemic is over? 
Going to the movies, going to theater, having dinner with friends and socializing and relaxing more.

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