So we can all watch wonderful films throughout the year, International Film Festival Rotterdam releases films on DVD, in Video On Demand and in cinemas. In this episode of Inside IFFR, a look behind the scenes of the distribution department.
To extend the lives of festival films, to stay in the public picture as a festival itself and to offer an extra platform to filmmakers, in 1998 IFFR established a distribution department in collaboration with the Filmmuseum. That department has been run by Juliette Jansen
for over fourteen years now, and over the course of these years, she has been experimenting with new ways of distribution. For example, tours like the World Cinema Tour and Tiger on Tour were organized, a DVD label called Tiger Releases
was founded, and, well, before the mass even knew what it was, Jansen had launched an online video platform.
Digital video channel
In 2005, the film festival launched a video channel called Tiger Online. Jansen: 'That was way too early. Hardly anyone was streaming movies back then, let alone paying for it. Only this year, for the first time, I notice a substantial increase in the use of Video on Demand.' The current Video On Demand channel
was launched two years ago, and new titles are added regularly. In the last few months, the online selection has been expanded with titles like Tiger Award winner De jueves a domingo
and A Dangerous Method
The challenge as distributor for IFFR now is to find the best platform. 'In the past, it was quite clear: first to the cinemas, six months later on DVD and then, if you were lucky, on TV. Now that distribution possibilities have extended to online, options have become endless. There's the choice between dozens of VOD channels in the Netherlands alone.' IFFR makes its distribution films available on Mubi
and its own website; plus, through cable TV, festival films can be watched on UPC On Demand
The distributed titles are mostly from the Bright Future section of the festival, often the works of young and promising directors. 'The festival is very concerned with the promotion of new talent', Jansen says. 'We try to do the same with distribution.' For the selection, Jansen considers public surveys after screenings, reviews, awards and what programmers tell her about the films. 'Right after the festival, we start listing films that are well-received, but haven't been picked up by Dutch distributors yet. Neighbouring Sounds
is a great example. That film received many awards after its world premiere in Rotterdam, was screened at many other film festivals and received positive reviews. That's a film you want to release.' Since last year, a selection of the most special festival films is also compiled in the DVD and VOD series 10 To Watch
Festival in cyberspace
IFFR has been pretty progressive as a multimedia festival, not only by organizing a real-life festival in January and February, but also by throwing an online minifest
for a few years now. During the last festival, each day one feature film had its world premiere on the IFRR YouTube channel
and were available online for 24 hours. Black & White & Sex
by debutant John Winter was watched 3000 times in just one day.
Jansen: 'Ever since we started with YouTube a few years ago, we've been working hard to deliver proper online content: we ask directors to show their films on our channel, put a new shorts programme online each month, publish festival reports and more.' Even though filmmakers often decide to put their films on YouTube just for extra exposure, it is possible to make some extra money with it as well. With a smart, self-initiated social media campagne, Aneta Lesnikovska managed to get eleven million views for her film Does It Hurt? - The First Balkan Dogma (still online
). Lesnikovska and Jansen will now write a guide for other filmmakers: Do It Yourself Distribution.
But wouldn't IFFR be cannibalizing their own offline festival audience by luring them to YouTube? 'Not at all. The physical festival will always be the place to watch films together, meet filmmakers, go to parties, see exhibitions; for many visitors, it's about those extra things, the atmosphere and the social aspect of the festival. Online and offline reinforce each other. And if you've been to the festival one day, there's always the possibility to watch one more film at home the next day.'
After the festival, some of the screened festival films are distributed as theatrical releases by Jansen. For instance, the Brazilian movie Neighbouring Sounds
, which was screened at World Cinema Amsterdam last August and toured through the Netherlands as part of the WCA Tour, will be released in theatres in Amsterdam, The Hague and Nijmegen on September 27th. Among the theatrical releases of IFFR are no blockbusters of the magnitude of, say, The Dark Knight Rises, even though the festival did release Christopher Nolan's debut Following
(1999). The most successful theatrical release in the history of IFFR is actually the first film that was distributed after Juliette Jansen had started working at the festival. 'It was viewed by about ten thousand visitors; a number that's never been equalled since. The title of that movie? Who the Hell Is Juliette?