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Every January for the past 18 years, the streets of Western Nevada County, CA have been filled with activists, environmentalists, authors, artists, audiences, and filmmakers alike, all celebrating at SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival. At Wild & Scenic, we believe in the power of the communal festival and theatrical experience. However, due to the impacts of COVID-19 on large public gatherings, we are being called to creatively rethink what the Wild & Scenic experience looks like.
With the forecast of uncertainty around how COVID-19 will continue to impact larger public gatherings, we have made the decision to move the 19th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January to a completely virtual platform. The health and well-being of our attendees and community is our priority and we feel this is the best way to ensure everyone’s safety. While we know a digital event will feel very different from gathering and connecting with fellow activists in physical space, we still plan to have an inspiring event that brings the most current environmental issues to folks around the globe.
We are putting all of our efforts now into successfully pivoting to a digital event and hope that we can all continue to support each other in sharing powerful and inspiring messages to the world. Already, Wild & Scenic and our On Tour hosting partners have experienced success in pivoting our screenings and events to a digital format and look forward to taking the knowledge gained through that experience and creating the most robust virtual festival experience possible.
The opportunities that going digital will offer us include reaching new and wider audiences with Official Selections, incorporating even more filmmaker and guest involvement, and lowering the barrier to an event that in previous years may have been inaccessible to some. Wild & Scenic remains committed to the mission of inspiring activism through film and more than ever we look to the power of film for its ability to inspire and transform, to heal and unite us, to highlight our resilience, and to give us hope.
Many of you may have questions, whether you have already submitted a film to us or plan to submit a film. Several that we felt were important are included in the FAQ below, and we will continue to update as more information become available. We will do our best to address any additional questions as we navigate this new landscape together. We plan to make this announcement to the wider public later in July; but we wanted to prioritize keeping our filmmakers up to date and make this information available to you sooner rather than later.
We appreciate your understanding and willingness to accompany us to new and uncharted territory. Please be sure to sign-up for our newsletter to stay in the know as we unveil more plans about this exciting new festival experience. While the future remains uncertain, the strength we find in community and creativity is powerful and enduring. As our theme for 2021 posits, we are indeed “Resilient by Nature,” and look to our planet for inspiration as we adapt and innovate the ways in which we work together. We are grateful for your continued support and eagerly anticipate what the future will bring. Thank you.
Q: What platform(s) will you use to show the films?
A: We are still figuring this out. We have some front-runners in mind but are in the process of researching the various options, many of which have been created out of a sudden need for more virtual events. If you have recommendations based on positive experience, we’d love to hear from you.
Q: Will this impact how many films you screen?
A: We are still figuring this out. Typically, we show around 120 films. Depending on the number of submissions we receive and what platform we decide to use, we may adjust this number accordingly.
Q: Will the dates of the festival change?
A: We are still in the process of deciding. We plan to kick off the festival on our advertised start date of January 14, 2021 though it is possible that the number of days in our festival run will increase.
Q: For films that are selected, what protections will you have in place to keep projects safe from piracy? Will there be options to geoblock films and/or limit attendance?
A: We are still working out the specifics as it will depend on which platform we ultimately decide. However, security for our films has been a priority in vetting our platform options so we hope to offer services such as DRM protection and geoblocking. We are also looking to have flexibility to limit attendance, if needed. We will work with selected filmmakers directly to ensure all parties feel safe and comfortable with the digital screening arrangements.
Q: If I already submitted my film, but don’t want to be considered for a virtual event, can I get a refund?
A: According to our policy, we do not offer refunds for submissions. Once a film is submitted, it is being processed and reviewed which requires staff time and additional resources. Our intentions to host a live event with the possibility of going virtual is stated on our FilmFreeway page as well as on our website, so we hope you had ample opportunity to consider the implications of this possible shift.
However, we understand that you may have submitted your film assuming or hoping that we would have a live event. We hope that you will join us in seeing this edition of Wild & Scenic as an opportunity to be creative, innovative, and even increase engagement with our Official Selections. We promise to find ways to amplify our films and filmmakers in ways that would not be possible with a physical event.
Q: Will you still host workshops, filmmaker Q&As, and other programming?
A: Yes! And in fact, by holding this event virtually, our options for speakers increases exponentially. Not everyone has the time or can afford to fly in to the foothills of Northern CA from afar, so we are excited to expand our list of potential speakers and guests. We look forward to working with selected filmmakers to craft opportunities for pre-recorded and livestreamed Q&As, panels, workshops, talks, and more.
Q: Will the virtual event be ticketed or free?
A: We plan to ticket the majority, if not all, of our film programming as we would normally do at our in-person festival. There may be opportunities to offer free programming, which we will assess as planning moves ahead.
Q: If my film is accepted, what sort of perks can I expect?
A: We are still figuring this out. It will depend on the platform we end up using. We want to explore ways that we can add value for our filmmakers, so if you have ideas or have had a good experience at another virtual festival we are all ears!
Q: Your festival is in January, why announce so early?
A: As we began the budgeting process for our upcoming event, we modeled several different scenarios, including the possibilities of doing some socially distanced screenings at venues with lowered capacities. Since then, the nationwide situation has continued to worsen and we have seen upticks in cases, rather than overall decreases. So by running the numbers, assessing and re-assessing the current state of COVID-19, and prioritizing the safety of our community, we concluded that the only logical way to hold this event was to go virtual. On a typical year, we pack 10 venues full of film watchers, host parties, and generate lots of business for local restaurants, bars, and hotels. Trying to picture a scaled down version of the event wasn’t making financial, ethical, or philosophical sense. By deciding and announcing early, we can give all of our various stakeholders plenty of notice and also double down on one vision rather than spin our wheels for the next several months waiting and wondering. We felt it was important to be transparent with all the various groups who interact with the festival so that as a community we can begin to envision what a virtual Wild & Scenic can and will look like.