Friday, January 27, 2017

AIFF2016: Suggestions for Next Year's Film Festival

Overall, the 2016 Festival went well.  There were lots of good films, lots of visiting film makers, and some nice extra touches - like music before some films.  On the opening night, for instance, the Alaska based band whose music was in the opening night film, played before the film.  That was some thoughtful planning.

But there are always improvements to be made and here is my list for next year.

1.  Scheduling -

This is my biggest issue.  Here are two guidelines I'd like the schedulers to strive to follow.

A.  Maximize number of films someone can see.  From one time slot to another, there should be enough time for viewers to get to any of the next films.   Here's an example of what I mean.  Below is the first Saturday morning schedule. ( I realize it's hard to see the details, but you can get the basics points.)

Top row (A,B,C,D) - films that began between 11:30am and 12.  The blue-green stars indicate how many of the four following films a viewer has enough time to get to.
Someone watching film B could get to four.
Someone watching A or C could get to three.
Someone watching D could only get to two.

The pea-green circles show the number of prior films from which one could get to  the next set of films (E, F, G, and H).

Why not schedule the end times and starting times so someone could get from any of the first four to any of the second four?  This also has to take into consideration walking distance between venues.

All it takes is paying attention to
a.  how long each program is
b.  adjusting the starting times (and thus the ending times) of A, B, C, and D 
c.  adjusting the starting times of E, F, G, and H

They didn't need big adjustments as the following image shows.  A few minutes this way and that.

By starting the longest showings of A, B, C, and D a little earlier and slightly adjusting the starting times of E, F, G, and H, the movie goers' options are greatly improved.  They can see ANY of the following four films from any of the previous four films.  And it can work for the next set of films (I, J, K, and L) as well.

If someone is trying to see two particular films, it's not possible if the two are playing in the same slot.  Festival goers understand they can't see every film.   But one shouldn't have conflicts between slots.  (Slot meaning here - all the films that are showing between, say, 11:30 and 1pm, and then 1:15 and 3pm, etc.)

B.  It should be easy to see the films in competition in each category.

Films in competition are the ones the reviewers thought were the best.  I haven't always agreed, but overall, that's a good guide for picking out better films in a very crowded, generally unknown field.  So it should be easy to find and to watch the films in competition in each category.

For feature length films 
a.  they shouldn't be shown at the same time
b.  they should be marked as films in competition so it's easy to identify them
c.  as much as possible, feature length docs and features, shouldn't play at the same time

Shorts and supershorts
These are more complicated because they are shown in programs with other films.
a.  put as many shorts in competition together in the same program as possible
b.  don't have orphans - just one film in competition in any program
c.  put the films in competition at the beginning or end so someone doesn't have to sit through the whole program to catch them
d.  show more of the short, particularly the short shorts, before feature length films - this year, for example, "Arrival" was shown on GayLa night before "Real Boy."
e.  pay attention to which films are repeated in different showings - there were some shorts I saw three or four times and others I never got to see

2.  Other Issues 

Indicate Films in Competition in the list of selected films on the website
This has been the usual practice, but this year this was only done for the Docs and Short Docs.  There was a place for them to be marked, but they just weren't.  Even though the festival was notified in advance, it didn't get done.  Aside from alerting viewers, it's important information that verifies what a film maker says about her film.

Memberships - I don't know how many people are aware of AIFF memberships, what they mean, and what benefits members get. (I don't.)  Membership is not pushed on the website or at the festival.  I suspect more people would join if it were pushed a little.

49th Brewery basement room - all seats are at the same level and the screen isn't elevated so it is hard to see films,  particularly those with subtitles.  On weekend nights there was a lot of noise from nearby rooms.  Having food available is good.

Alaska Experience Small Theater - temperature regular goes from cold to hot to cold to hot.  If you sit under a vent it's really bad.  Also latecomers have to walk in at the front and opening the door lights up the screen.  Otherwise, it's a cozy little theater.

When scheduling, remember that it probably takes about ten minutes to get from the Brewery to the Alaska Experience and another ten or so to the museum.

Award titles - get them consistent
  Generally, the awards have been titled:  Winner, First Runner Up, and Honorable Mention.  But at least one of the announcers at the Awards ceremonies used other names, like Winner, Second Place, and Third Place.  I'm not sure the official names are the best.  Would someone not associated with the festival who hears "Honorable Mention" realize this is a third place honor?  It might be useful for the board to consider what names they want to use.  And then get everyone to use them consistently.

World Premiers - Mark any films that are world or North American premiers in the schedule, online, and announce it before the film is shown.

Computer Instructions  -  The audience shouldn't have to see the projectionist's computer screen.  It happened often enough - particularly at the Alaska Experience Theater - to be something worth mentioning here.

All that said, I think this was one of the better run festivals.  The volunteers were great - helpful, cheery, thinking on their feet.   The festival remains low key and, from what I hear from the film makers, one of the most hospitable festivals around.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.