As Los Angeles’ own AFI FEST Film Festival starts to slowly wind down, I’m reminded of how much fun film festivals are to attend and cover. I am also reminded of how time-consuming and exhausting they can be – and that’s an observation I’ve made during a festival that allows me to trot around my own hometown and sleep in my own bed every night. Imagine what I’ll say on day six of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In any case, the rise of Internet-based streaming options is slowly changing the way film professionals check out films, either for review, programming, or acquisition, and that’s now starting to bleed over to the festival world. While I always prefer seeing a film in a theater with an audience, on occasion, an online streaming option is the only way to go, and there’s something to be said for watching a film in your own living room (mainly, something about pajamas).
To that end, newish website Festival Scope is currently offering on-demand festival programming that includes screeners for a number of big film festivals. Festival Scope does not offer all the films of a festival, and doesn’t seem interested in doing so, as part of the mission of the site is to spark awareness and interest in film festivals themselves. Tossing up every selection online isn’t just impossible for a myriad of reasons, it also doesn’t serve the idea that actually experiencing a film festival firsthand is valuable. But Festival Scope has a number of films they want to “highlight,” and those are the ones available now.
The site is currently in beta testing, but they’ve already rounded up online screeners from festivals that include the BFI London Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Venice International Film Festival, and a number of other, smaller fests that cinephiles may not have previously made a priority to check out (unfortunately, I don’t know that getting to Thessaloniki Crossroads, the Balkans’ oldest film festival, is in the cards for me). New films are steadily being added every day, and I’d know, because I refresh the Alps page a few times an hour (“coming soon”!).
But joining up with Festival Scope to use their service comes with a caveat – you have to be an actual film professional. More specifically, you have to “be involved in acquisitions, programming, international co-productions, promotion or reviewing of films.” But, worry not, if you are, in fact, a professional and you submit your plea for membership to Festival Scope, they don’t dilly-dally. They approved me in less than thirty-six hours (hey, I never said anything about the quality of the professionals they let use the service).
Festival Scope does use a number of security measures on their films – some are only available in certain territories, some display the viewer’s name on the side, films can only be watched once, rewinding is limited, and so on and so forth. But those constraints shouldn’t bother the site’s vetted subscribers – “professionals” who would be watching the screeners for, well, professional reasons.
Using Festival Scope is phenomenally easy, so easy that a film critic could use it (these are the jokes). Search for the film you want by title, director, or festival. If you’re feeling extra left brain, you can search by way of map for the right festival for you. What fun to pick the fest that’s as far away from you as humanly possible! I’ve used Festival Scope to check out a couple of films, and I’ve been pleased with both the ease and quality of the experience. I may never leave my house again.
Beyond just the basic screening function of the site, Festival Scope also offers marketing materials, promotional materials, and contact info for some of those responsible for your new favorite films. Much easier than getting sauced at a professional mixer during a festival and rolling up on a director to mumble that you dug their vision, man. Right?
While an online or an in-home option will never (never, ever, never) replace the fun and vitality of an actual film festival, Festival Scope is offering a cool service that will (hopefully) get some festival film picks larger acclaim and viewership. That’s good for everyone.
Hat tip to William Goss for introducing me to Festival Scope and its wonderment of features.