Beni Atoori is an internationally-acclaimed director, producer, and writer. He has 25 years of experience in the film industry. His big break was with the film, “Tis a Gift to Be Simple.” He also produced “The Last Movie Star.” Atoori has financed every one of his own films over his career as well as films for other filmmakers. He has some insider insights into the world’s top five film festivals.
Of course, film festivals, for those who are not in the film industry, are designed to be events that allow the major industry players to see each other’s work and interact with working out deals for funding and distribution of filmmaking projects. The festivals also create buzz for new films ahead of their release in the theaters.
Cannes Film Festival
Cannes is the film festival considered by most in the industry to carry the most prestige. It is a very exclusive event, yet it is huge. About 30,000 film industry professionals attend the yearly event, crowding the tiny town of Cannes, France. Also, the festival is known for being the location where some of the best films have premiered.
According to Atoori, Cannes lasts for 11 dizzying days of events, parties, meetings and film screenings. Film industry professionals work day and night when they are at Cannes. Some may attend a hundred meetings, most of which require that they do their homework and are prepared in advance. The red-carpet screenings of the 20 films that are competing for the festival’s major award occur between 7 and 10 PM. Other screenings of films occur that are outside of the competition. Since a lot of walking goes on between the screenings and meetings, industry professionals mostly dress casually during the day and glam it up at night.
The locals rent out their homes for obscene prices to the film industry professionals, since the locals know the film industry insiders must be there.
The goal for these industry professionals is to sell the distribution rights of their films to the buyers that attend Cannes. There are under 2,000 buyers present at Cannes wearing purple stripes on their tags. The heaviest of the buying of distribution rights occurs from the first day of the festival to just after mid-way through. Then, the emphasis switches to financiers who are looking to fund new projects.
Information about the deals, reviews of screenings and gossip each day is disseminated through magazines called “Dailies” that are freely distributed.
Toronto International Film Festival
The Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF, is also highly prestigious. It began in 1976. TIFF is a place where international filmmakers break into the North American market and where North American filmmakers move into worldwide distribution.
TIFF, like Cannes, is an 11-day event, full of screening of films, meetings, parties and networking for film industry professionals. Like Cannes, it is huge. There are almost 400 films and over 200 features to view. Half of them are usually world premieres. Cannes is in early summer, but TIFF is situated in early September, right before the autumn push of new movies. There are 28 screens, and it is easy to be standing in the wrong line for the video you want to see. It has become one of the most significant film festivals in the world. This is where talk about the Oscars tends to begin. The festival focuses upon independent films like Atoori is famous for. TIFF is not exclusive for those in the film industry, like Cannes. There can be half a million movie fans crowding Toronto during the festival. Fans can attend screenings alongside the film insiders.
There are an official TIFF website and blogs that help both industry professionals and the public follow the goings on at TIFF. Some of the screenings have the cast or producer do a question and answer session as well. These are also posted in the TIFF website schedule.
According to Atoori, TIFF, with its TIFF Bell Lightbox theater and center has become world filmmaking and tourist destination. People can attend events throughout the year that include premieres, live film events, lectures, discussions, workshops, and support for film industry professionals.
Venice Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival began in 1932, making it the world’s oldest film festival. It also tends to be the most glamorous film festival, with the women wearing long, Italian gowns and the men wearing retro-looking suits. The VFF is also a late summer event, occurring around late August or early September. According to Atoori, it has a slower pace to it than TIFF.
The first issue with VFF is getting to the festival. It is on an island. The cheapest water taxi ride during the event is about 70 euros, but people have been known to just blend into a paid VFF group and sneak onto their water taxi.
The focus of VFF is cinematic history and new releases. As in TIFF and Cannes, there are red carpet events, and there is plenty of stars watching to do. Like TIFF, the public can purchase screening tickets online and in the box offices in the local area. The only tickets to screenings the public cannot purchase are those for the red-carpet events.
Berlin International Film Festival
Also known as the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival is another, more democratic, film festival that allows the public to purchase tickets for the screenings. It was established in 1951, and its focus is upon international and European film premieres. There are over 400,000 tickets sold per year during the 10-day event, and there are around 20,000 industry professionals that attend. There are up to 400 films screened per year. This is the largest public film festival in the world, and it occurs every February.
There are distribution rights markets for buyers, and 20 films compete each year for major awards. There are red carpet events for premieres of feature films and lectures and workshops for young filmmakers. There is an emphasis on networking to provide funding to newer filmmakers and their projects.
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance began in 1978 in Utah. It happens every winter with around 40,000 industry professionals in attendance. It is an event for independent films. Part of the culture of Sundance is that it exists to give a voice to projects that otherwise would not be heard. There are competitions for documentary films, feature films, and short films.
Sundance also provides the stage for discussions with filmmakers and panels of industry professionals. There are also live music events hosted. According to Beni Atoori, because of exposure at Sundance, many independent films that have premiered there were able to be distributed to larger, worldwide audiences.