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Digital Film Festivals

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

For digital videomakers the glitz and glamor of festivals like Toronto or Cannes may not be as fitting, and digital film and video festivals may fit the bill more appropriately.

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    Viva La Revolution

    The digital video revolution is more than just a product of commercial innovation. What it does is bring a complex mode for communication and creative expression within the hands of all classes, instead of just the elitist bourgeoisie. Now anyone can realistically put together a film and get it shown to an almost global audience. This change in financial stratification is seen all over the internet and by rebel filmmakers, but many large film festivals are still fighting the future of egalitarian art. To this day there are scores of film festivals that will not accept films that were shot on digital formats or distributed on anything but standard film. When you are trying to shop your freshly completed masterpiece you may want to head directly to digital film festivals, which will help you line up with your expressive peers and be free of movie industry prejudice.

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    Early Incarnations

    Many of the film festivals that were originally called digital film festivals were those that were instrumental in sending this format mainstream. Onedotzero was a festival, and organization, that was aimed at progressing the art of digital video across all fronts. The No Dance film festival was an answer not only to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, but even its alternatives like Slamdance.

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    The New Media

    What separates a digital film festival now is often that it has a larger focus on experimental filmmaking, short films, and video art. The idea is that digital film has now allowed a completely different form of filmmaking that, because of its inexpensive film stock, has a lot more room for trial and error. It seems as though this format has opened up the possibilities for filmmaking because it is not restrained by the urgent need to recoup the money it has cost. Digital film festivals today, often referred to as film and video festivals, tend to have much more open requirements as to what qualifies in the way of film. These are also places where work that does not fit into the traditional classification of filmmaking can go. This includes complex film tests, mixes of animation and live action, video synthesizer performances, integrated video and performance art, and uses of new media in conjunction with video. This is often why digital film and video festivals are sponsored by modern art museums in metropolitan areas. On the same token, many festivals are just directed toward digital formats to cut costs and hold similar standards as other festivals. What all of these festivals tend to have in common is that unrepresented, unknown, and first time filmmakers are supposed to have be seen as equal to better known alumni.

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    Internet only festivals are also by definition digital because they have to be uploaded and viewed in a digital format. These do not fit the standard definition of a film festival because they usually just require audience members to view them on a website, but there are some developments where film websites are using digitally streaming video to show the films simultaneously in theater settings.

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    A Movement

    Filmmakers should look as these festivals in a similar way that they do with any festival. It does present an opportunity to further jump into experimentation and film communities far away from the standards set by the more mainstream independent film groups. In this way digital film festivals may be at the cutting edge of film movements, especially those like No Wave, Mumblecore, and the Pluginmanifesto.