McLean, who had kept an eye on updates on the outbreak and prepared for the worst, agreed. “When the news finally came,” he said, “it was a relief that there wasn’t going to be a security problem, but it was also extremely devastating.”
In the weeks following the cancellation of SXSW, a number of film festivals and industry events met the same fate. Hollywood has been hit hard by the coronavirus: film studios have postponed the release of franchise films, theaters have closed in major cities as part of the effort to ban group meetings and slow the spread of the virus and production has stopped on a number of projects around the world. The Hollywood Reporter estimates that nearly $ 20 billion in revenue could be lost as a result.
For independent filmmakers, the interrupted circuit of the festival also suffers a severe blow, even if the impact is not so visible. As much as the premiere of a long loving labor may seem “nonsense” to Furloni, the lack of festival experience is bad for the health of the largest film industry. “Regional and local film festivals are the veins and capillaries of our industry that continue to be able to emerge new artists and help them build an audience that will support their career,” Emily Best, founder and CEO of Seed & Spark, a crowdfunding platform for emerging film talent, he wrote to me via email. “So we can’t just bypass film festivals, we’ve cut the future blood supply.” As events continue to be wiped out, these filmmakers are learning to adapt to a new distribution model. The only problem? Nobody is sure what that model is like.
Free land, for example, remained adrift from the cancellation of SXSW. “For something that has really been done independently and needs to be shared with the world, the way we do it is to start with the best film festival that best fits your movie and we thought it was SXSW,” said McLean. “And then after SXSW [was canceled, we thought]”Geez, we’ll look at other fantastic festivals we’re excited about,” and then one by one, they’re all closed. Now it’s kind of like “All right, so without a film festival, what is the path? ‘ “
For many, streaming seemed like the obvious answer. Given the reputation of big platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon as content creators, rescuers of canceled shows and curators of special festival events, moving these displaced festival films onto the Internet seems like child’s play. And with people practicing social removal and self-quarantine, streaming has become a simple reason to stay.
The actor and director Mark Duplass was one of several people who require streamers to host virtual festivals, labeling a litany of major Twitter platforms and asking if they could buy short-term rights. But apparently, he told me by email, his idea wouldn’t work. “I’ve looked at it a bit and, as you can imagine, it’s quite complicated,” he wrote. “The major streamers have a set of delivery standards for these films that are too expensive, complex and grounded to change … and those standards make no sense for them to stream any movie in a short and limited window.”