Experiences of a Filmmaker in 2020, the year of Corona

© Hamann / Penzlin www.crisscrossfilm.de

 

Caroline Hamann – filmmaker from Munich

 

shortfilm.de: How did 2020 start for you?

C.H.: In January 2020 after three years of work, Fritz Penzlin and I completed our animated short film CRISS CROSS. Three years of meticulous and precise stop-motion cut out animation, packed with love and huge effort.

In January and February I submitted the film to many festivals, and the premiere took place here in Munich on the 29th of February. Looking back, it is barely conceivable that 70 people squeezed into a small cinema for the screening.

 

shortfilm.de: What happened after the premiere? How did you experience the next few months?

C.H.: Everyone knows what happened globally from March onwards. And all of a sudden, we were facing a completely new world of online festivals – including, unfortunately, postponed festivals, those not really happening or even cancelled festivals.

I’d like to take this opportunity to tip my hat to the numerous festival organisers who had to conjure up the online versions of their events as if by magic in the shortest possible time.

I am only speaking for myself here, from my personal experience of online festivals – but I have a feeling that I’m not the only making these observations.

To a certain extent, what we have learned and discovered is reflected in the learning curve of the festivals themselves. And because CRISS CROSS is doing well on the festival circuit, we get to experience the whole shebang.

 

shortfilm.de: Can you put that a bit more precisely? What exactly are the pros and cons of online festivals?

C.H.: The clear advantage of an online festival is that theoretically you can participate in every single one of them. But the participation has to be well organised.

My best online festival experiences are those where the cinema experience is recreated virtually: Clear communications about where to click and at what time. A live stream with real people introducing the films, intro videos by the filmmakers, so we can put a face on the films. There have been instances of digital admissions tickets and a break for popcorn in the middle.

Having a Q&A session via Zoom with the filmmakers is always a great idea as well.

Likewise, gaining some personal contacts via Zoom, email, phone or even mail has given this surreal experience a positive spin.

An invitation to next year’s edition with the promise of a screening is a definite bonus!

 

shortfilm.de: Were there any negative experiences? Which issues could arise for you as a filmmaker from this?

C.H.: Some festivals were either delayed or postponed repeatedly, reduced to just their jury screenings or even cancelled completely. This can result in problems with a film’s premiere status.

Several festivals only accept national premieres. If one of those festivals gets postponed due to Corona, but another festival in the same country doesn’t, then this forces the fimmaker to withdraw the film from the non-premiere festival. This could normally be avoided.

The postponed festivals are all happening simultaneously in the autumn of 2020, making it hard to attend more than two.

Also, due to simple misunderstandings (‘the festival starts at 17:00’ – but which local time?), it sometimes felt like our film was projected into the void. Alternatively, it was streamed on Instagram which we didn’t know was happening.

I’ve also learned that many festivals often screen a smaller selection of films when they are happening online.

This is completely understandable. However, if the selection is smaller this year, what will happen next year? For submitted films, it’s a lose-lose situation for 2020 as well as 2021.

It’d be great if some kind of compensation or other solution could be found for this –  I imagine that the festivals are already working on it.

 

shortfilm.de: Which ideas do you support – assuming that we’ll have online festivals or hybrid versions of them for a while?

C.H.: Communication in advance of a festival is always helpful, as well as feedback about the online experience afterwards. I’ve been contacted and asked directly by festival organisers about my own experiences and what advice I have for them. This is definitely a good idea.

Vice versa, advice from the festival about how to effectively promote your film online and reach audiences is more than welcome.

This brings me to my other topic: If everything is happening online, then some films and their creators, who are perhaps not so adept at virtual spaces and social media can simply disappear.

 

shortfilm.de: What could be done to remedy a situation like that?

C.H.: I’ve been working in animation for almist two decades and I also organise a monthly Animator’s Meetup in Munich. Through this combination, I know a ton of people in the industry. Amongst those, there is a bunch of incredibly talented, older artists, who are not on social media and don’t plan to be any time soon. These are the people who are missing out most this year.

What can these filmmakers do? Wait until 2021 and face much more intense competition?

I think it would be good to start thinking about connecting people within the industry who are from different generations. The festivals could step in at this point and reach out to younger animators or producers and ask them to help represent the older generation.

Mutual help and support could also be organised and arranged via the German Short Film Association or the German Animation Film Association.

 

Which thoughts do you have looking to the future (of short film)?

C.H.:Of course, we’re all hoping that everything is back running normally again next year.  But we can’t depend on this. So it might be clever until then to continue to expand and develop those aspects of the online festivals that are going well and make sense. With the ones that are working best even continuing to be used in the future. A well organised Zoom conference is better for the climate that flying halfway around the world, actually.

Personally I hope that in the future the festivals will again be held analogue, so-to-speak. But if you’re not able to travel to them, or prefer not to, then it’d be great if you could simply attend them online instead in the future.

But for that, we can’t made up for or replace the exchanges, talks, work discussions, contacts and inspirations that us filmmakers have missed this year, unfortunately.