Above: Outdoor screening at Walkabout Brewery
Last year’s decision to move the spring festival to a virtual platform was made rapidly, and with a sense that we had no other choice. We had to find a way to showcase the extraordinary work of the filmmakers we had selected and our own hard work compiling the program. The festival was a remarkable success, and we received many comments from viewers who said that they thought the quality of the Q&As, the stretched-out scheduling of the films, and even the parties, had advantages over the usual physical event. But, overall, our survey comments enforced how much people missed the “sense of community” that our lines, lobbies, and volunteers add to the movie-watching experience. Audiences and organizers alike hoped for the traditional festival’s return.
Along with other festivals planning their upcoming winter and spring events, we don’t feel confident that the public health climate will allow us to fully present our standard film festival in theaters next spring. Many preparations for the spring festival begin as early as September, and having a solid plan in place now empowers us to have clear direction and be transparent with our team, members, supporters and filmmakers who are considering submitting their films to us.
So, like many other festivals I’m observing, we’re looking at creating a hybrid festival this spring that is both virtual and physical. Unlike other festivals, as far as I’m aware, we are planning to make ours into two separate events: a “double feature” with the virtual event running April 15-29 on our Eventive-powered virtual channel and the physical event running five nights outdoors, June 24-28. Indoor screenings are possible, too, if health conditions allow. We are in the early stages of planning with ScienceWorks to create a combined drive-in/outdoor seating screening area in the field facing their building. Our other likely venue is the Walkabout Brewery in Medford, where we held a smash screening of The Weight of Water, with an audience of over 100 folks wearing glowing Bluetooth headsets last September.
We’re excited about our whole year-long series of events that will culminate with this 20th anniversary “double feature” festival. We will kick off with virtual Varsity World Film Weeks, running October 2-15 and will continue with a monthly “Best of the Fests” indie feature film screening, with filmmaker Q&A’s, on our Eventive channel.
We will keep working on our plans to deploy our new AIFF Film Center on Main Street with screenings, workshops, and exhibitions and will fervently hope that all past, current, and prospective members will come aboard with their memberships and donations. The new membership campaign starts now, and your contributions will keep us going. Joining before October 15 gets you some World Film Weeks tickets, and, if you’re under 26 or experiencing economic hardship at this time, we’ve got an entry level “Crew Membership” we hope will enable you to take part in all we have to offer.