Short answer, YES! Here are six reasons you should hire an event planner for your film festival.
- A Film Festival is an EVENT
Sounds fundamental when it’s spelled out, but that is what you are putting on as a festival director. As with a wedding, bar mitzvah, Christening, or any other significant rite of passage, you are providing a venue that can generate memories that can last a lifetime. In some cases, you are offering the only opportunity a filmmaker will ever have to see her or his movie on the big screen in front of a live audience. Whether it is walking the Red Carpet, handing the Q&A, ordering popcorn, or participating in social gathers, your event should be one that will make each and every participant walk away feeling they have been welcomed and celebrated. As with the other rites of passage, your event planner will help you give your festival the respect it deserves.
As the Festival Director, you have plenty of things to worry about. You have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours curating films and working with programmers to put together the perfect slate. A professional event planner can help you negotiate the venue, find professional photographers (not your cousin with his new smartphone), manage the step and repeat, negotiate hotel arrangements, find the best venues for receptions, negotiate best process for SWAG, work with you in organizing the awards ceremony, and even arrange logistics for your VIPs. Like the parents of the bride, you are not there to just pay the bills, you are there to celebrate the wedding and enjoy the experience.
- Saves Money
Many people are under the misconception that an Event Planner is just an additional expense, and the person will just have a holiday spending money you don’t have. In all actuality, it’s just the opposite if you work with a professional. If you are a filmmaker yourself, think of your Event Planner as your Line Producer or Unit Production Manager. They are there to make sure your vision comes alive within the budget. Having an event planner will more than cover the expense of hiring them as they have the ability to come up with cost saving solutions that you may have never considered. For example, they can negotiate with hotels, restaurants and caterers for deals that are only offered to industry insiders. They can provide advice on what SWAG participants will appreciate versus the ones that are a waste of money. They will be your behind the scenes point person while you tend to your filmmakers, distributors, and audience members. You did this because you are passionate about films, so let them help you enjoy the experience.
- Help You Find Wranglers and Other Experts
A Professional Event Planner knows his/her/their skills sets and limitations. They know what they can do and cannot do. A responsible planner will let you know their limits. If one of your goals is to have your event planner bring an audience to the screening, they may have to find a wrangler to reach out to the local community. A Wrangler is a person who’s tied into the local social scene and knows how to create buzz in a community. It is no accident that there are long lines of party goers trying to get into nightclubs that are offering overpriced drinks, or hundreds of people showing up at a restaurant opening. Wranglers can reach out to the groups that best match your event and bring your audience, press and visibility.
A key member of your team is your public relations point person. This may be your event planner, but more than likely it will be a person who specializes in media services. Your event planner may be able to help you find that subject matter expert, but in any case, they will be able to work with that person to coordinate messaging the local community.
- Program Management
Your Event Planner will be your point person to work with your public relations manager, caterers, photographers, volunteers, theater managers, host hotel, and wranglers. The Event Planner should not be considered your one stop shop for all elements of your festival. They are part of a team and will work with other subject matter experts as required. You should carefully vet the event manager you are considering — actually check references, ask for horror stories, and try to attend another event they are managing, if possible. Ultimately, you need to make sure your working styles are a good match. People are people, so be sure your event planner will listen to your vision and not try to take over your festival. Conversely, you should be able to trust your event planner. They are there to help you, and a professional will understand that.
- Manage Expectations
Perhaps the most important service an event planner can provide is to minimize surprises. That means you must be able to have open and honest communications with your entire team. You have established your goals and your planner should be able to work with you to manage your expectations, as well as the anticipation of filmmakers and audience members. You should not expect lobster on a hamburger budget and your guests should not expect a five-star hotel in a rural community. In the end, you want everyone to enjoy the best experience possible. If your venue is 50 years old, celebrate that fact and don’t try to pretend it’s an IMAX theater. Your event planner is there to help you make the most of the resources you have available.
Have you worked with an event planner for your festival? Please share your experience in the comments section.