NZ Film Fest: Working reel time

By Hugh Collins

Cinema's rapid switch to digital has eased the scheduling chore for International Film Festival organisers, writes Hugh Collins

Festival director Bill Gosden. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Festival director Bill Gosden. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Scheduling the 150 or so titles in this year's New Zealand International Film Festival is no small job. So how do the organisers ensure each flick gets an ideal spot?

Festival director Bill Gosden, who has been involved for more than 30 years, says that he and assistant programmer Michael McDonnell schedule the festival by marking up a separate grid board with 15 minute intervals for every venue.

Each film is represented by a card, which is proportional to the length of the movie.

"It can be quite an intense and taxing procedure," says Gosden.

McDonnell explained that scheduling the festival has been different this year because it's the first time most of the titles have been kept on digital cinema packages (DCP), which are more easily transportable than celluloid film reels.

"Usually with a film print there'd be four days where you could show a film but now with a digital file we can basically put it anywhere in the festival," he says.

"So we can put a screening at the start of the festival to create word of mouth and then put it at the end to really capture that word of mouth."

However, he says that this kind of flexibility has presented challenges of their own.

"When you have those kinds of restrictions it's easy to put films in where they have to go, whereas, when you have so much more choice it's a bit more difficult to ask yourself, 'What's the perfect way to do this?"'

He says that in 2011 a majority of the films in the festival were kept in print, so the transition has occurred rapidly.

"Last year it was about half and half and this year it's basically all digital files. So film print has died off fairly fast."

McDonnell also said it's important that films are scheduled in places where they're going to receive the biggest potential audience - that also means keeping an eye on events competing for the same audience.

"For instance, you don't want to put a film about ballet on at the same time as a ballet show.

"We really have to keep track of what's going on by making lots of checks to ensure that nothing like that happens."

Gosden said other challenges of the scheduling process is allocating the films to venues that are going to be the most suitable in regards to capacity and capability.

For example, particular films are only made available if they're screened at the Civic because of its 2000-plus capacity, he said, while others are only made available if they're not screened there.

"Some films have far too much camera movement to be screened at the Civic, where the vast nature of the screen exaggerates the unsteadiness of the image."

He explains that during the festival films can have up to four screenings if played in a smaller venue, while for some films, companies are prepared to license only a single screening.

"So we give those films nice evening slots, where the maximum number of people might be able to get to them."

He says a consequence of having a large number of films is that producers are not always happy with howtheir film has been scheduled.

"They all want to play the same four session times. They can't all get what they want."

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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