Film Festivals are events hosted by state governments, private organisations, associations, universities or film societies. The primary objective is to provide opportunities for established and emerging filmmakers around the world to showcase their movies before an audience, while having their films reviewed by professional critics.

In this article we share with our readers, some insights on how Film Festivals have evolved with digital transformation, along with the utilisation of technology within these industries. Stageyou had the privilege of speaking with Diana Cadavid – Associate Director, Program & Industry Administration for the Miami Film Festival.

Attributed to her extensive experience working with the Miami Film Festival and her exposure to several Film Festivals, Diana has been privy to the evolution of these industries with the rapid advances of technology. She is responsible for the management of films received as well as the programming for the Miami Film Festival, Florida, that showcases independent American and international films.

If one were to analyse the history of films and content sharing, Diana speaks of a visible shift in how films are being submitted at present. In the past, Global filmmakers would present films via DVD or VHS’s to each Film Festival. The disks/tape cassettes had to be couriered and shipped resulting in longer periods for delivery as well as compromised quality of a film. From a financial perspective, it was an expensive process due to shipping and courier cost, as sometimes multiple DVD’s or VHS’s had to be sent to several film festivals. The expense incurred was an additional cost apart from the promotion, marketing of the film and even the Film Festival ‘submission cost’ – the submission fee filmmakers pay, for screening of their films. These expenses had been disadvantageous especially to the young filmmakers making films for the first time, and for producers of short films.

But technology as we see it, is creating a new future and remarkable changes in how this is done. Now, filmmakers around the world can submit their film online via a “link” or “Online video platform”.  According to Diana, these new methods of submission facilitate a process where filmmakers could submit their finalised films more efficiently, while cutting down the production cost of DVD’s and VHS’s dramatically; hence reducing a lot of waste material. In addition, filmmakers can produce and deliver high-quality films to Film Festivals. Diana mentions that this evolution has had a significant impact on the way filmmakers get their films viewed and in turn enable these festivals to receive a higher volume of entries to consider for programming.

Further elaborating on its benefits, she talks of multiple platforms, providing different offers in which films can be digitally transferred to festivals. Indeed, a sweet treat for aspiring movie makers with a vision and dream! Video technology minimises efforts, time and repetition because of the ease of process. Diana also mentions that Miami Film Festival receives around a thousand submissions each year via on-line platforms.

On submitting their films via a link to the Film Festival, initially, the film is uploaded, and a private link is created using YouTube, Vimeo or Dropbox for viewing by a targeted audience. This link is shared with Film Festivals online in a secure manner. Unlike in the past, with these tools, filmmakers are not only able to share their highly sensitive content securely but can also send across heavy files providing the best quality of films as entries. “There are multiple platforms with the goal of facilitating and connecting more filmmakers to more Film Festivals” she added, demonstrating how technology provides a common platform of connectivity, especially for those with shared interests or objectives.

Online tools, she says, are used not only for the submission of films but also for other purposes such as grant applications, participation in events and many other avenues in which a person can connect with the Film Festival organizers. Talking about grant applications in the past Diana recalls, five copies of the application and supporting documents had to be printed and submitted to the Canyon performing arts. But at present one can submit all documents online with their supporting work, photos of installation, and videos with less hassle.     

Going into detail on how a Film Festival works; the process of choosing the film and content that is going to be part of the festival, not only includes selecting films but also workshops and masterclasses. Diana mentions the first part in organising a Film Festival includes, choosing, curating and programming according to their vision. This also includes inviting guests, deciding on the target audience and activities offered to the public. Thereafter, promoting of the Film Festival takes place. The largest part of the promotion happens digitally by way of online commercials, creating events on Facebook and the website. She further states, every year they investigate newer ways on how the audience can connect with the Film Festival.

Sharing more details on the process Diana states,  ‘Keeping in mind that throughout this process we are handling really large volumes of data and information, all that information is handled and stored in ways that are like Digital- Databases, spreadsheets, Google Docs and Dropbox because you have to connect and promote at every stage of the process. From obtaining films, organising, and presenting it to the public so that public can interact with the information in a way that makes sense for them- assuring them of an amazing experience’. When it comes to ticketing, taking the Miami film festival as an example, Diana indicates that they have their own ticketing system, but to promote the event and offer discount codes to groups they collaborate with websites such as Eventbrite. We observed during this discussion, how digital transformation has truly shaped this whole process to create value for all stakeholders in film and movie production; giving us a preview of a dynamic future that technology will present as we progress through the years.

Once films are selected and ready to be shown to the audience, Diana states that a standard in the exhibition of films in theatre is also a new digital format, known as DCP (Digital Cinema Package). This format can be storage in external hard drives or be sent from server to server using advanced technology.

As a curator Diana believes technology has introduced new avenues of storytelling where artists, filmmakers and scientists have come together to create interesting and unique pieces of work, that aims at creating powerful stories and sending messages across to a greater audience. That is the case of VR, AR and XR technologies. For example she talks about how timely and relevant messages that support social causes could be expressed using the opportunity provided to tell a story. It is therefore evident that technology has had a remarkable influence in this journey, of empowering aspiring filmmakers, opening doors of opportunity to showcase/broadcast their work creating a diverse level of interactivity with the audience even apart from the big screen.

In conclusion, Diana states, the heart of a film festival is the ‘Film’ and the film is all about storytelling, communicating a message or interacting with the audience. ‘There is a deeper aspect in digital transformation where it’s not only the tools that make it efficient, but it also empowers filmmakers to be more creative, providing new opportunities to tell more powerful stories to its au

Diana Cadavid

Associate Director, Program and Industry Administration, Miami Film Festival| Former Director of Programming, International Film Festival of Panama (IFF Panamá) | Programmer Regent Park Film Festival and  aluCine Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto  | Former Programming Associate , Toronto International Film Festival |Producer, Editor , “Breathe the Night”, “Bleiben”, “Still Life with Echo”  and “Define Solidarity”

Associate Director of Program and Industry Administration for the Miami Film Festival, former Director of Programming for the International Film Festival of Panama (IFF Panamá), and Programmer for the Regent Park Film Festival and  aluCine Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto. As a Programming Associate for eight editions of the Toronto International Film Festival she provided effective support for the Ibero-American programmer, Diana Sanchez.

​Diana has also produced and edited the short films “Breathe the Night” (19), “Bleiben” (06), “Still Life with Echo” (08) and “Define Solidarity” (13), directed by Álvaro Girón. She was the Production Manager for the feature film  Mañana a esta hora (2016) by Lina Rodriguez.