[Filmfestivalresearch] Size matters

Dina Iordanova dina.iordanova at st-andrews.ac.uk
Mon Sep 23 13:54:44 CEST 2013

Dear Greg, Richard, Mike and all,

There are several things that I want to react to in what seems to have
become an interesting exchange.

1. Greg, thanks for listing the main sources of festival information.
Surely these are very interesting and important sources for current info
for us to follow. And, of course, each publication features the
information from point of view of the needs of its perceived audience.
However, we need to be conscious that there is no publication that caters
for the needs of those who research festivals -- but as this is a
relatively small community, I doubt the need for a periodical publication
of such type. All that is important in my opinion is to be aware that
there is no periodical that approaches matters from this point of view. If
I stand to be corrected, I would like to hear about it.

2. Richard, over the years I have been reading festival reports in the
Cineaste, Sight and Sound and a range of other cinephile publications. All
these reports are structured in a similar way and try to do two things in
one go -- on the one hand there is a report on the festival
format/sidebars/architecture/politics/ aesthetic vision, followed by
discussion of the concrete films these presented on the other. Over the
years, I have come to see this format as inherently flawed as it covers
two issues that are not hugely compatible. If festival format was covered
separately from the films, I think we would know more of the way festivals
work and on the important role they play within film culture at large. If
these two things -- container and content -- were explored separately, we
would have better insights. I am writing more about this in the
introduction to the new Film Festival Reader which is just out. Critics
writing on festivals -- such as Nick Roddick or Marc Cousins -- who have
written pieces on festivals only without commenting on specific films,
have given us most insights. I am particularly saddened, in this context,
to see Nick Roddick's Mr. Busy column disappear from the pages of Sight
and Sound. 

3. Mike -- indeed Screen International today is a shadow of its former
self. I must say that a great deal of my understanding of the way
festivals operate has come  from faithfully reading SI during the years
when you were the editor. This was the period of the absurd rushed demise
of MIFED and of some important reconfigurations on the festival scene
alongside the entry of new distribution patterns. I hope, therefore, that
the issues of SI from this period will remain as an important source for
festival research. One example only -- reading your annual survey of
'festival-hoppers' where you were asking about 40-50 festival insiders to
tell you which festivals they go to, which ones they find value for money,
which fests are too expensive, and to which ones they go for the food
mainly (in this category San Sebastian was routinely coming on top) has
given me more insights into festivals than many texts written with the
specific intention to highlight the festivals galaxy. I surely miss your
vision for this publication. Thank you!


Prof. Dina Iordanova FRSA
Chair in Film Studies
Director, Centre for Film Studies
Publisher, St. Andrews Film Studies
University of St. Andrews, Scotland


On 22/09/2013 02:17, "Greg DeCuir" <gdecuir at yahoo.com> wrote:

>Dear Michael:
>I understand everything you're saying and agree. It wasn't really my
>intention to attack or question the trades. I know their function well
>and appreciate it for what it is. I worked in Hollywood for 10 years and
>the first thing I did every morning at my desk was read Variety from
>cover to cover. The second thing I did was read the Hollywood Reporter
>from cover to cover. Plus I originally come from a journalism background,
>so I know what it means to write for a wide audience and to service an
>industry, to pound a beat. Nothing inherently lazy about hitting
>deadlines at all. I think it's easy for us researchers to be insular at
>times and look askew on anything that doesn't adhere to our rigorous
>standards. We get caught up in our world and I often wonder if we spend
>too much time talking to ourselves, preaching to the choir, so to speak.
>But also, particularly those of us in film festival studies, we tend to
>wear a lot of hats. There are a lot of sites of
> convergence. Many of us research, but also program, perhaps also write
>journalistic pieces, or even make films and videos. A sensitivity to this
>fluidity is key. Indeed, the connections are important. And I always try
>to remember one of the best pieces of advice I ever received regarding my
>writing and research: look up.
> From: Michael Gubbins <michael.gubbins at gmail.com>
>To: Greg DeCuir <gdecuir at yahoo.com>
>Cc: "filmfestivalresearch at listcultures.org"
><filmfestivalresearch at listcultures.org>
>Sent: Saturday, September 21, 2013 1:54 PM
>Subject: Re: [Filmfestivalresearch] Size matters
>As a former editor of Screen International and Screen Daily, I think it
>is important to understand the position of the trade press.
>The trades are in Toronto and at other festivals and markets as
>representatives of their industry subscribers, not as means of explaining
>the festival to the wider world.
>At the markets, their business model is predicated on convincing those in
>sales and distribution to advertise their films in their daily papers,
>based on a critical mass of industry readers at the event.
>This role is central to Screen International's existence.
>Beyond the festivals, it has to keep up international subscriber levels,
>largely by covering the subjects that interest those subscribers.
>Sometimes those issues can seem superficial. I can tell you though that
>screening times and the workload at festivals are very high on the agenda.
>For researchers, the importance of Screen and Variety may be in the way
>that they reflect the superficial concerns of the industry, rather than
>any inherent laziness.
>Having said that, you do allude to an important point. The business model
>was once based on print advertising, which paid for higher staffing
>levels, allowing more critics to go to festivals and more journalists in
>more places able to look in more depth at issues that we felt the
>industry ought to be more concerned about.
>When I was editor (2004-2009), Screen was a weekly publication and now it
>is a monthly.
>As Greg rightly points out, there are great benefits in the breadth and
>range of publications now available to researchers.
>And speaking as a supporter of the growing body of brilliant academic
>work on film festivals, the work of people in this forum is adding really
>valuable knowledge.
>Perhaps the key issue is the connection between the industry and these
>new sources of knowledge.
>In drawing conclusions about publications, it is necessary to remember
>that Screen and Variety exist because the industry thinks they are
>essential, and remember they have influence, even if you question their
>Michael Gubbins
>On Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 7:53 PM, Greg DeCuir <gdecuir at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>It depends where you look. Not all of it is superficial. Maybe Screen
>>Daily can be at times, ditto for Variety - but Variety is the classic
>>model for superficial entertainment journalism. It's more about trade
>>news and insider speak than anything else. Indiewire is a different
>>story. They have a lot of great content and great writers, and many
>>affiliated with the academic world are peppered throughout the various
>>pages. Then you can take a publication like MUBI Notebook as another
>>example. They publish a lot of hardcore theory-cognizant film criticism,
>>also mixed with academic writers, and their festival coverage is
>>excellent if a bit in a poetic and crusading journalistic style. Film
>>Comment publishes a lot of great online festival coverage from many of
>>the usual suspects, as does Cineaste.Ditto for Artforum, but they tend
>>to play the snooty/sarcastic role a bit too heavily. There is a new
>>online journal called The Dissolve that has a lot of detailed
>> and smart writing, with some in-depth festival coverage. The only
>>academically-inclined resource I will mention is NECSUS, which has a
>>dedicated festival review section edited by our very own Skadi Loist and
>>Marijke de Valck. Of course there are more. For example, Senses of
>>Cinema flirts with both sides of the boundary, and they have great
>>festival coverage. And forget about mentioning the various blogs run by
>>both professional journalists and academics alike.
>>It's a golden age. Whatever (and whoever) you want is out there for the
>>Greg de Cuir, Jr
>> From: Dina Iordanova <dina.iordanova at st-andrews.ac.uk>
>>To: "filmfestivalresearch at listcultures.org"
>><filmfestivalresearch at listcultures.org>
>>Sent: Friday, September 20, 2013 4:31 PM
>>Subject: Re: [Filmfestivalresearch] Size matters
>>Great to see these references -- thanks Ger and Skadi.
>>But I admit -- reading all this stuff, the Screen Daily, Variety,
>>Indiewire etc. -- which is undoubtedly essential for us to follow, also
>>leaves me routinely underwhelmed. These guys are always saying valid
>>things and their observations are valid. But it is just leaving me
>>for some more depth. It is all extremely superficial -- perhaps the
>>does not allow for anything else?
>>The Archival Film Festivals book which we recently released has a great
>>interview with Tom Luddy -- check it out. I think it says more about
>>Telluride's special position on the calendar than many other texts I have
>>Jeff, are you subscribing to this list? You must have been at Telluride
>>just recently. Maybe you will say something for the benefit of all of us?
>>Prof. Dina Iordanova FRSA
>>Chair in Film Studies
>>Director, Centre for Film Studies
>>Publisher, St. Andrews Film Studies
>>University of St. Andrews, Scotland
>>On 20/09/2013 15:21, "Skadi Loist" <skadi at filmfestivalresearch.org>
>>>And here was another one chipping in on the Telluride positioning...
>>>How the Telluride Film Festival Cheats the System
>>>by Eric Kohn
>>>Skadi Loist
>>>Co-Founder / Admin
>>>Film Festival Research Network (FFRN)
>>>skadi at filmfestivalresearch.org
>>>-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
>>>Von: Filmfestivalresearch
>>>[mailto:filmfestivalresearch-bounces at listcultures.org] Im Auftrag von
>>>zielinski, ph.d.
>>>Gesendet: Freitag, 20. September 2013 15:52
>>>An: filmfestivalresearch at listcultures.org
>>>Betreff: Re: [Filmfestivalresearch] Size matters
>>>Very interesting, Dina. This one caught my eye earlier "Can Telluride
>>>Continue to Steal Venice and Toronto¹s Thunder?" by Peter Debruge.
>>>All kinds of issues and claims going on.
>>>cheers, ger
>>>On Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 8:19 AM, Dina Iordanova <
>>>dina.iordanova at st-andrews.ac.uk> wrote:
>>>> Dear all,
>>>> Over the past days Screen Daily run an interesting exchange which I
>>>> think would be of interest to people subscribing to this list.
>>>> See Wendy Mitchell's article Toronto, Just Too Big
>>>> http://www.screendaily.com/comment/toronto-just-too-big/5060444.articl
>>>> e
>>>> And artistic director Cameron Bailey response:
>>>> http://www.screendaily.com/5060507.article
>>>> Dina
>>>> Prof. Dina Iordanova FRSA
>>>> Chair in Film Studies
>>>> Director, Centre for Film Studies
>>>> Publisher, St. Andrews Film Studies
>>>> University of St. Andrews, Scotland
>>>> --
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>>>> ures.org
>>>Ger Zielinski, PhD
>>>Assistant Professor of Film and Media
>>>Cultural Studies Department
>>>Catherine Parr Traill College, Scott House 202 Trent University 300
>>>Street Peterborough, ON K9H 7P4 Canada
>>>T: +1 705 748 1011 X6113 (Office: Catherine Parr Traill College, Wallis
>>>F: +1 705 748 1826
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