(In this article veteran of film festivals, Manoj Srivastava talks about how film festivals can help Government, Tourism Boards & Film Commissions)
Often there has been a debate whether an international film festival can help a City establish itself on the world tourism map. There have been classic examples of lesser known cities like Cannes (France), Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic) and Locarno (Switzerland) but then there are lesser ones like Tallinn, Milano, Torino and San Sebastian who have made it bigger in terms of tourism.
For the uninitiated, the first ever International Film Festival took place in Venice, Italy in 1932 followed by Moscow (1935). Immediately, the Festival shifted focus to Venice, the tourism was not even a concept then, but exploration was. By 1938, the Venice Film Festival was dubbed as a vehicle for Fascist and Nazi propaganda. Almost in retaliation, France decided to organize an alternative film festival in June 1939 in south of France, a lesser known destination Cannes. Curiously, one of the Casinos agreed to host the event. The event soon began to attract heavy footfalls and as it rose in stature, the French Government in 1952 announced it as the permanent home for the festival. The Festival today attracts interest from over several million film makers with a few hundred thousand visits because it’s a destination for events. The Line up of events is impressive. Of late, Venice and Toronto have been offering it stiff competition.
The Governments and the Tourism Boards more precisely need to understand that while a film festival may appear to be a week-long event, it actually generates eyeballs in scores of countries for over a nine-month period. Right from the time when the film submissions open, the mailers, Press releases begin to connect with people globally. This is ‘Pull Marketing’ and not really ‘Push Marketing’ where the Governments invest huge amounts.
A Film Festival is definitely entertainment and there is no reason why it should not attract people but a span of about nine months is something the Festivals offer for promotion of the city they are hosted in. Apart from this window, the actual arrival of Film Delegates in the city, their experiences, their sharing of pictures on the social media, their recommendations on websites kick start a campaign and interest in the destination. Since this campaign is voluntary, it continues for a long time creating many fans and curious travellers. This is further boosted by celebrity presence in the city. The images clicked on the Festival’s red-carpet travel far and wide through news, social media shares, celebrity tweets, search engines and all end up promoting the destination.
This is the stage where the Governments can step in with indirect smaller investments like facilitation and support which may be in any form, but these bring in far better results than just planting centre page advertisements in a prominent newspaper/magazine of a prominent country or buying television commercial time.
The point being made here is that the ‘Pull Marketing’ of an International Film Festival works far strongly than the conventional ‘Push Marketing’ technique adopted mostly by the Governments, Film Commissions and the Tourism Boards. This also helps in supporting the film and hospitality industries besides supporting the entire art landscape of the country.
One hopes the Governments of the day worldwide will realize the importance of the film festivals and other such events and begin to invest in these directly or indirectly supporting appreciation of the cinematic art on one hand, tourism and the business of cinema on the other.
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