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NZIFF in concentrated outing

Having revealed its first four titles for 2014 and unveiled a spiffy new website (take a bow, Cactus Labs), the NZIFF also announces that it’s taking advantage of digital technology to take a less leisurely tiki tour around the country this year.

The NZIFF will screen from mid-July through to late September in 2014. Previously the festival has played the major centres in quick July and August succession, but has then spent a further three months sauntering around the provinces before winding up at the end of November.

Almost halving the run concentrates energies. The same amoount of work needs to be done in a shorter period of time for some of the festival team, but there are also some upsides.

The regions are, in theory at least, the biggest beneficiaries of the more condensed run. Once the festival has announced its programme and hit the main centres, media interest in the festival mostly evaporates – which can make creating a buzz in Napier or New Plymouth harder work.

The move to digital also means that some of the titles which previously wouldn’t have stuck around to play smaller centres, because the prints were needed elsewhere, can now play in any centre at any time the festival chooses to programme them.

It does involve some additional work for the festival’s team, who’ll be working with much shorter timeframes to produce and supply preview material to regional centres. One way in which the digital age might actually slow things down is in the provision of preview materials. The days of the screener in DVD form are disappearing. In its stead come links, usually password-protected, sometimes also time-limited, occasionally device- or ip address-specific.

Other than password-protected vimeo links, which festivals can distribute to all interested reviewers, festivals don’t control the access to many of the person and/or-time-specific protected links, just as exhibitors don’t control the DCP keys to screen titles in cinemas.

The Civic

The Mighty Civic sees many a festival screening

The task of directing an intern to slip a bunch of DVD screeners into a courier bag and send them on their way to reviewers has now become a process of negotiation with each reviewer about when they will view each title, emailing the (often offshore) distributor to request access for each reviewer at specific times … and then crossing some fingers.

For a festival like the NZIFF that plays so many centres, that seeks to attract interest and support from such a cross-section of national and local media, that can add up to a lot of extra work. However, if it helps cut down the posting of titles on file sharing sites, then it’s a win. Which is the best way to look at it when vimeo spends 20 minutes buffering a title and still stutters its way through the playback.

The festival is keen to make the changes, however, and optimistic they’ll go well. Certainly the new website went live with hardly a hitch. Whether there’ll be more changes next year, such as a further consolidating of the festival run, depends how things go this year – not just for the festival but for its regional partners as well.

In the smaller centres, where there are fewer screens across which to juggle content, the arrival of a festival can bring challenges. The northern hemisphere summer blockbusters will still be playing when the festival opens in smaller centres, but will have cleared out from daytime screenings once the schools start term three on 21 July. The only crossover between school holidays and the festival is on the NZIFF’s opening weekend in Auckland. In its new, swifter-moving form, the festival will conclude before term three does.

NZIFF dates confirmed so far are:

  • Auckland 17 July – 3 August
  • Wellington 25 July – 10 August
  • Dunedin 31 July – 17 August
  • Nelson 6 – 24 August
  • Christchurch 7 – 24 August
  • Gore 13 – 24 August
  • Napier 20 August – 7 September
  • Hamilton, Tauranga 21 August – 14 September
  • Masterton 3 – 17 September
  • New Plymouth, Palmerston North 4 – 21 September

The NZIFF’s full programme releases will commence in Auckland on 23 June. This year’s NZIFF opens in Auckland on 17 July and will complete its travels on 21 September.

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