Going behind the scenes

Photo by Melle Meivogel.

Building an inventive festival format

As Executive Director, Cees van 't Hullenaar took the initiative of thinking early on about different scenarios for organizing a festival in 2020. “These three scenarios were at the heart of my work throughout the year,” he says. “Together with all the teams, we looked at alternative scenarios early in 2020. What would the financial consequences be? How would the programming be affected? How would we work together with festival locations and all our other partners? Each scenario concerned every aspect of the festival as we know it. Subsequently, we worked within three possible options for the coming edition: going fully online, presenting a hybrid edition, or remaining as a physical event. “Planning for a hybrid edition soon became a necessity, and we worked with the Netherlands Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Cinekid to jointly develop an online platform: software that could combine the functionalities of existing tools such as Zoom, Facebook Live, traditional video broadcasting, and our film database into a seamless viewer experience. All kinds of festival events such as film screenings with Q&As, filmmaker talks, and industry discussions had to be accounted for. “Another important aspect of the past year is that we wanted to develop from a festival to an institute—one that undertakes all kinds of activities throughout the year, expands nationally and internationally, and resonates with a diverse audience. “From the perspective of the Marketing and Communications team, we looked at how we could disseminate IDFA as an institute in 2020 and ensure that the program was brought to the attention of as large an audience as possible. This was already happening on social media, but last year the website itself was the stage, which is why marketing and communications mainly took place online.

“The Production department actually produced three festivals in 2020: the development of the online festival; working with theaters throughout the country for IDFA Extended; and the setting up of various studio settings in Vlaams Cultuurhuis de Brakke Grond and Arti et Amicitiae, much like producing an all-day alternative television program for days on end. It was a completely different way of producing a festival. In that respect, I compare IDFA 2020 with IDFA 1990: We were pioneering. Broadly speaking, the hybrid festival achieved what we wanted, but it remains second best. You really want to be able to meet people in person. “With regard to the Development team (formerly the Fundraising team), it’s truly commendable that all financiers, sponsors, and relations continued to support IDFA, some even more generously than before. The audience, the Friends and Special Friends(+) of IDFA, and the donors were all heart-warmingly flexible and true partners in terms of dealing with the new and unknown situation. “Despite the fact that everyone worked from home, our staff were very willing to give it their all in creating the best possible IDFA 2020 under crazy circumstances. This past year there was little human resources policy, personal development plans, or a good work-life balance for that matter. We have to make time for that now. “In 2020, we built an inventive festival format that we all stood behind, from the creative departments to the supporting departments. I thought it was an ambitious and courageous feat and I’m proud we dared to do it.”

Cees van 't Hullenaar, Executive Director

IDFA's online platform is made possible with extra support from The Netherlands Film Fund and Fonds 21.

Photo by Roos Trommelen.