Tom Hall, always one of the smartest bloggers, programmers, thinkers in the room had a great post at IndieWire that I missed until Agnes Varnum posted about it. I made some quick comments there, but thought I'd post what I think about the recently announced IFC/SXSW partnership here.
Read the other posts first or this won't make much sense:
Great, thoughtful post. I am 100% in support of this move by IFC and SXSW and think it can be great for fests as well. Having run a small, regional fest for 5 years, I was always pushing for this exact model and for expanding how we think about what our audiences will come see.
I for one always argued with our programmers that it didn't matter if a film played HBO, or PBS first, we could still get an audience. Tons of people don't watch these. Tons won't even know it's on demand. You, me and many film buffs see things right away and may choose to see a film based on how soon it is available, but I don't think this is true of everyone. it's amazing how many people still haven't seen Citizen Kane - it's been in theatres, on tv, on vhs, disc, youtube and everything else and lots of people haven't seen it. Many would come to your fest for a print screening with a local film expert. Find value in what you offer that other venues (including "venues" like an ipod) don't or can't.
Those that do may be intrigued to see it with others, or to see it again, to bring their mom who can't figure out VOD, or as you mentioned to meet the filmmaker. I'd also argue that you don't necessarily need the filmmaker in attendance. It helps with most, but you could probably fill a screening with related speakers (the local expert doctor on the disease in the doc, or whatever).
More importantly, we need to figure this out because no one should care whether our old (festival, distribution, platforms, whatever) model lasts or is harmed. All we should care about is the filmmaker and the audience. Whatever tools come around that better connect them, all the better. So, for fests (and others) to be relevant they need to continually ask your question (rephrased) - given that this is the new reality, how can we add value to the films, filmmakers and audiences.
I've been so eager for someone to have this conversation, and think of even bolder models, so in that sense I am very glad for IFC/SXSW and your post!