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Article published 05/07/2020

Tell us about EIFF

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is one of Europe’s leading film festivals, taking place each June in Edinburgh. EIFF is a festival of discovery, diversity and debate, a showcase of the world’s best films and filmmakers, and a platform that inspires, entertains, illuminates, and challenges audiences to better understand the world around them.

Each year EIFF premieres films never-before-seen in the UK, bringing filmmakers and audiences together for a unique celebration of film. A mix of red-carpet events, innovative and exciting cinematic discoveries, free film events across the city, and massive audience appeal makes Edinburgh’s Film Festival one of the world’s most popular and approachable celebrations of cinema.

EIFF’s Industry programme brings together emerging filmmakers and established talents, to share knowledge and collaborate on future projects. Alongside this, EIFF runs a brilliant education and learning programme, EIFF Youth, inspiring young people to discover their future in film. 

EIFF’s 74th edition was due to take place 17-28 June 2020 but was postponed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What were the key reasons for creating a digital event?

After we took the difficult, but inevitable decision to postpone the Film Festival, our team looked at how we could create a film festival experience, by presenting a selection of brand-new films online, supporting the film industry and giving audiences something to get excited about.

At the time of developing the event, all UK cinemas were closed with most film releases postponed until further notice, so this provided an excellent opportunity to adapt and expand to an online offering.

Our aims were to:

  • Create an innovative digital festival
  • Ensure EIFF continues to be a platform to showcase and celebrate new films and filmmaking talent
  • Diversify the UK online streaming offering by providing a wider access to contemporary British and international cinema
  • Continue EIFF's legacy as the world's longest continually running film festival by adapting to current challenges and delivering it in a new online space
  • Maintain EIFF’s visibility with local, national, and international audiences
  • Introduce new audiences to EIFF, using a digital platform to extend the reach of the Festival
  • Learn how to deliver digital projects, including online streaming and online Q&As, which will allow us to do more of this in future
  • Base activity on our values of inclusivity (including collaboration), integrity (including trust), innovation and inspiration.

Tell us about your digital event

EdFilmFest at Home was an online film festival, giving audiences across the UK the opportunity to discover and enjoy brand new cinema from the safety of their own homes, with a programme of Q&As and other activity to give a flavour of a traditional film festival experience.

Running over 12 days, we presented a special programme of 13 films from award-winning, inspiring names as Jennifer Baichwal, Marco Bellocchio, Ron Howard, the Dardenne brothers, Tilda Swinton, Alicia Vikander and Maxine Peake, including Clemency, Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Saint Frances, White Riot, and Capital in the 21st Century. A new film was presented each day, with films playing for between 2-12 days, to give audiences flexibility to view films at a time that suited them.

Accompanying the films, we hosted: a Q&A with the director Thomas Clay, and cast of Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Charles Dance, Tanya Reynolds and Freddie Fox; a Masterclass with Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, writers and directors of Young Ahmed; a Q&A with A White, White Day director, HJlynur Palmason; a White Riot Q&A in association with Glastonbury, hosted by Jamz Supernova (Radio 1Xtra), with director Rubika Shah, and guests Julian Temple and Billy Bragg; and a special Q&A with Rebuilding Paradise director Ron Howard and residents of the town featured in the documentary. 

Q&As were streamed live on YouTube and Facebook, and are free to view at EIFF’s YouTube channel. 

Watch Q&As >>

Did you come across any challenges?

The majority of our team have been furloughed since EIFF was postponed and our cinemas, Filmhouse in Edinburgh and Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, closed their doors. We were trying to create something new, to help an industry in shutdown, with incredibly limited resources, both in terms of staff time and financial support.

While we have experience in presenting films and working very closely with film distributors, securing the rights to present films online took time (showing films on VoD, in a festival environment, is not something the film industry is yet entirely au fait with) and we are very grateful to all of the distributors who worked with us.

Our team had to learn how to manage and host streaming live online Q&As, but we were lucky to be partnering with Curzon who had experience and assisted our team with this.

What was your approach?

EIFF approached Curzon Home Cinema (CHC) as the host platform for our activity. An established video-on-demand streaming service available in the UK and Ireland, CHC presents independent, arthouse and foreign language titles. Membership is free, with films being rented on a ‘per film’ basis, which made it simple for EIFF audiences to watch the films they wanted without having to commit to a monthly subscription fee. 

Hosting EdFilmFest at Home on Curzon Home Cinema also provided a fantastic opportunity for EIFF to reach new audiences across an established, popular platform.

Please provide details on pricing of the event and fundraising

EdFilmFest at Home films were priced at £9.99, in line with Curzon Home Cinema’s usual pricing. EIFF Friends, Filmhouse and Belmont Filmhouse members were also issued a 15% discount code.

We wanted to ensure that everyone had access to brilliant cinema and the education and learning benefits it creates, without financial barriers standing in the way. We introduced Pay It Forward for EdFilmFest at Home, where customers could choose to gift the price of a film purchase, providing the opportunity for someone to experience EdFilmFest at Home, where they might otherwise be unable to watch. EIFF matched every Pay It Forward ticket purchased.

How did you promote your digital event?

Having a bold, clear identity and message was key to EdFilmFest at Home, to help audiences understand the purpose of the festival, to differentiate it from Curzon’s existing programme, and to create ways for audiences to interact and keep some of what makes film festivals special.

Campaign design: EIFF’s Creative Agency, Touch, updated and developed EIFF’s creative identity, developing assets for digital use and to support our messaging for new and existing audiences. This included videos and short animations. 

Digital brochure: Our audience values our brochure, which regularly scores 80%+ for importance in how they select films in our annual survey. We created a digital brochure which was hosted on Issuu, embedded on our website, and distributed via our email marketing and on our social channels.

Press: We worked with Cornershop PR to promote the event to local, national, and international publications. We secured coverage in publications including: The Times, The List, The Scotsman, The Telegraph, Deadline, Screen International, Variety, The Observer, Mail on Sunday, and BBC News.

Social and digital marketing: To reach a UK-wide audience in a cost-effective way we focused on content driven marketing. By creating content that is more organic we utilised our channels, and were able to work with our partners and influencers, such as Johnnie Walker who created cocktail recipes themed around films in the programme. Additionally, we did paid social on Facebook and Instagram.

What did you measure and what were the results?

  • 12,000 views of EdFilmFest at Home on Curzon Home Cinema
  • Over 9,000 Q&A views
  • 1k views of the digital brochure
  • 615k Twitter impressions
  • 1.4m Facebook impressions
  • 32k Instagram impressions

Was it a success?

It was great to get such a positive response to EdFilmFest at Home, bring brilliant new cinema to our audiences, and support the film industry during an incredibly challenging time. This allowed us to create a curated platform for new cinema, engage with our existing audiences and give them a flavour of the film festival experience we knew they were missing, and reach new audiences across the UK, who may not have been able to attend the Festival otherwise.

Our social media campaign was particularly strong, reaching a vast number of people, which helped achieve our aim of maintaining EIFF’s profile and visibility, while our usual activity was postponed.

What were your learnings?

Over the last few years, EIFF has been focused on developing our digital audience and looking at how we can share festival content online, and this project has helped to accelerate our learnings and grow our digital followers.

We have been able to pilot new activity, such as the Pay It Forward scheme and online Q&As, and will look to use these learnings in future years.