Design a Film Festival Website that Works

You’ve decided that your film festival needs a website or maybe you need to update that website that you’ve had for way too long. Let’s talk basics. What are the 10 most important characteristics you should consider when making your film festival website?

  1. Fast loading

You can be doing millions of other things while on your device and you chose to visit a film festival website. To be respectful of your visitor’s time, you want that spectacular image or that perfect trailer playing in the background  to load quickly. Use image file sizes as small as possible without compromising on quality. If a picture looks just as good at 56KB as it does at 2MB, go with the smaller version.  “2 seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.” Maile Ohye, from Google. So do your research and find out how big those files should be, what template you should use and what web host is best for quick loading.

  1. Mobile Compatibility

These days most people will look at your website on a smartphone, so make sure it can adapt to various devices and platforms. This is a must. Most popular web hosts take this into consideration but check that the host you use has mobile optimization.  If you make your website desktop specific or tied strictly to a certain web browser, you limit your audience. Then test, test, test your site on various devices before going live.

  1. Simple Navigation

Make your website easy to navigate. Make your landing page stand out and give people what you want them to see right from the beginning. A quality experience that entices them to want to learn more about you and your festival  help to keep their attention to click further or scroll down. Have the basics on the first page: your name and logo; dates and location of the festival; contact information, with an email address and phone number. Then add links to submit their film; rules; archives to show what films have screened their before; and, ticket purchasing information.

  1. Make it Welcoming

This is where you really need to think about what the visitor will experience.  It should be a place to get general information about the festival, so make it easy to find with an ABOUT US tab “Who are you?” and ”What are you about?” should be a very easy to read paragraph. If a film maker is interested in possibly submitting to your festival, show them what they can expect to see and what the festival will be like. Is it a casual affair, how is the parking, are all the theaters in the same location, is it walkable to all the venues? What does the venue look like, where is it, what films have played there recently? They want to know about the community.

Other links may include information about travel and hotel accommodations, news, the surrounding local community, former participants who have found distribution for their films, etc. Try and give them the information that you would ask yourself.

  1. The Program and Screening Schedule

Some festivals use third party programs to manage the schedule for their festival. These make it easy for the filmmakers and visitors to see the schedule of events, the schedule for the screenings, landing pages for each of the films that include posters, trailers, screening times, and a link to purchase tickets. The film landing pages are critical because this is what the filmmakers will use to link their Social Media and Marketing Posts to your festival. They are your number one sales force, so help them be successful.

  1. The Awards Categories and Process

These may be listed on the submission site like FilmFreeway, but since you want people to stay on your site, you should list the Awards Categories and explain what they are for; simple and easy. Explain the judging process. This lets the filmmakers know how their work is being assessed, and brings substantial credibility to you and the festival.

  1. The Judges

If you have judges who are celebrated filmmakers, critics, writers, or educators, let the filmmakers know who will be evaluating their work. This brings credibility to the event and value to the laurel they will place on their poster and marketing materials.

  1. Photos of the Event

If you have a beautiful venue or are situated in an iconic, historic, unique, or lovely location, show it on the landing page. Use your location to your advantage. Many times, people will choose to attend a festival because they want to visit a certain place.

Photos of the social events at the festivals, red carpets, a packed theater, the awards ceremony, after-party snapshots all add to the experience. If you’re just starting out, make sure you highlight what you think the experience should be and show your best side.

  1. Merchandise

People love SWAG (stuff we all get), and they’ll even pay for it. Think of the filmmakers as an extension of your sales and marketing team. They decided to spend money to be a part of your festival. You are giving them a potential validation of their work with your laurel. Make it easy for them to promote your festival with mugs, bags, t-shirts, etc. they might wear it to another event, or use that mug on their next film set. Believe it… they want to show off the fact that they had their film in a film festival.

  1. Links to Social Media

Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, find out how your audience is interacting with their community and get engaged. This is probably how they found out about your site in the first place; so embrace it and be proactive. Stay current by announcing films that were selected, or someone who is a judge, give them stories about what’s happening and give people a reason to come back to your site.

The most important take away is that your site should let the filmmaker know that you are not just a film festival; you are part of a community that was established to validate and celebrate their work in an honest and meaningful way. Your site should make it clear that their film will be considered by a respected programming committee who will put together a slate of films that the visitor would want to see even if their film is not selected. Invite them to experience your event as a valued member of the filmmaking community.

Examples of Excellent Festival Websites:

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival:

Virginia Film Festival:

New York Film Festival:

Berlin International Film Festival:

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