For the last two years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel up to the wonderful city of Montreal, Canada for the equally wonderful Fantasia International Film Festival. One of the biggest genre fests in the world, Fantasia has spent the last few decades unveiling some of the most unique, inspired, and oddball action, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror films from all over the world. And this year, it’s going entirely digital… for Canadian residents.
Per an exclusive report in THR, Fantasia will be going online for a virtual screening event from August 20 to September 2 in an attempt to recreate the festival experience while still highlighting the year’s standout genre films in accordance with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Per the report, the fest is embracing Festival Scope and Shift72’s virtual screening platform, which they note “offers studio-grade DRM and operates to Motion Picture Association of America’s security standards.”
The festival was originally set to kick off on July 16 in Montreal, running through August 5, 2020 (as you can tell from that duration, the fest is an absolute beast that unleashes an arsenal of films every year.)
“While we’re saddened not to be able to put on the larger-than-life physical event that we’d been planning for this year, we’re extremely excited to be working with Festival Scope and Shift72 on an unconventional virtual edition,” said Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis in a statement.
He continued, “They’ve enthusiastically embraced every challenge we’ve thrown their way, particularly when it comes to making so many of our screenings be real-time, live events instead of the usual streaming approach. It’s going to make things so much more exciting and will go a long way toward keeping the intensity and engagement of the in-person experience vibrant in an online realm.”
“We’re thrilled to add Fantasia to our growing list of virtual festivals and we’re excited about their inventive new ideas for the platform. This year’s online edition will be engaging and exciting for attendees as the festival has planned premieres to replicate the physical event, adding a sense of exclusivity and familiarity,” Festival Scope CEO and co-founder Alessandro Raja added in a statement.
As for the details, the festival is looking to include a digital version of the live filmmaker Q&As, showcases and workshops attendees have come to love from the in-person event. The film competitions will also remain intact, with the juries functioning remotely. No word on a digital replacement for meowing at the screen, a festival tradition that’s either endearing or unsettling (or both), depending on who you ask.
The report also includes this key little nugget:
“The number of tickets sold for each film will vary by title or the wishes of filmmakers and will likely fall between 600 and 1,200 tickets per screening, similar to the seat capacities of Fantasia’s in-person Montreal event. Each screening will also be geo-restricted to Canada and tickets will be sold only to those with Canadian IP addresses.”
This is only the latest of Festival postponements, cancellations, and digital revamps, and obviously, it’s a heartbreaking reality of the current crisis that impacts the film community in a unique way. I adore the Fantasia experience, and there really is something uniquely special about the community and culture film festivals foster, but as sad as I am to miss the on-the-ground experience, I’m thrilled that fests, studios and filmmakers are looking to find new ways to ensure the indies and oddballs of the film community can still find an audience in our current reality.
The first wave of titles for Fantasia 2020 will arrive in late May. Stay tuned for more!