*(Photo: Anna Dvorak)

Anna Dvorak from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Mathilda Bassnett from the University of Huddersfield UK, discovered some of the ways film industries in the UK and Australia are managing the unexpected impact of COVID-19.


Setbacks continue to plague leading film industries as festival organisers find new ways to reach audiences in response to the closure of cinemas and event screening restrictions.

For Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley, the pivot to virtual cinema has presented new challenges.

“It is far more difficult in many ways to do an online festival rather than a physical festival because there are so many complications involved with film rights and it’s such an unknown terrain for us,” Mr Moodley said.

His comments come as The Sydney Film Festival (SFF) and the London Film Festival (LFF) join a host of content makers from countries around the world to launch the first ever global film event We Are One: A Global Film Festival (May 29 – June 7).

The free 10-day event, hosted by Tribeca Enterprises in partnership with YouTube, showcases a diverse line-up of new and classic films co-curated by 21 film festivals including Cannes, Venice, Berlin and London.

In London, Director of the British Film Institute (BFI) Festivals Tricia Tuttle, said the global film event is a testament to the hard work of festival curators all around the world.

“It shows what can be achieved when we all collaborate.”

But experiments in virtual festivals present new challenges to the industry.

“We have never attempted such a thing before so we are learning many things… [this] is not something we often contemplate and not something we plan for, it certainly came as a shock,” Mr Moodley said.

For the BFI’s Future Film Event Coordinator Fiona Heuch, the challenges involve delivering quality content to online audiences.

“Switching to running events online has definitely been a learning experience. We’ve had to pick up new tech on the fly.”

“We also have to think about making sure our events stand out from the crowd, while still benefiting our target audience.”

Finding new ways to reach audiences, the BFI has launched a series of digital events and activities such as the Young Filmmakers’ Club that provides weekly online sessions and at-home filmmaking activities for teenagers.

In Sydney, the SFF announced this week their first-ever virtual edition of the festival with subscriber packages including 12 days of access to the full festival programme for $199.00 including filmmaker introductions, Q&A sessions and live panels.

The SFF has also selected 40 films for an SBS On Demand free movie collection.

Despite the challenges of virtual content delivery, Mr Moodley remains positive that the industry can recover from the pandemic and innovation is key.

“I think film festivals are in a good place to return to where they once were.”

Anna Dvorak @anna_dvorak99 with Mathilda Bassnett @MBassnett