In an email to filmmakers, Indie Memphis indicated that their 2020 festival will consist of "a hybrid of online virtual events and limited, in-person outdoor screenings."
With movie theaters closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (with the notable exception of the Malco Summer Drive-In
), and film festivals around the country facing the same set of difficult choices the Oxford Film Festival responded to in the spring
, Indie Memphis staff has been engaged in contingency planning for months.
The annual film festival, which attracts more than 12,000 cinephiles to Memphis and hosts filmmakers from all over the world, is currently scheduled for October 21st-29th, 2020. The email to filmmakers said that, while the situation remained fluid, more dates may be added in October to maximize the online and in-person experience.
"When you created your film, and, perhaps, when you submitted it to Indie Memphis, the world was in a different place," executive director Ryan Watt wrote in the email. "Cases continue to rise in our region. It is important to us that we balance concerns for safety along with providing filmmakers the best possible outlet to share their work with audiences during this unusual time."
Parties and industry panels will be replaced by virtual events.
"Most in-person screenings will be hosted at outdoor venues with audience distancing to provide a safer environment, and scheduling may be adjusted due to weather or safety concerns. These events are intended for local audiences, and not all films will be exhibited in-person," wrote Watt.
Indie Memphis will likely benefit from its relationship with Eventive, the Memphis company which began as the festival's ticketing solution before expanding in recent years to become the industry standard. As the Memphis Flyer reported in April
, Eventive has developed tools for film festivals to move online during the pandemic, and has been expanding their services both nationally and internationally this year.
The film selection process is still underway, and no filmmakers will be notified of their acceptance or rejection for several weeks. Watt said that there will likely be fewer films on offer this year in order to maximize online engagement, and to reflect a 26 percent drop in submissions. In a normal year, Indie Memphis receives thousands of film submissions for narrative and documentary features and short films, as well as music videos and experimental creations.
When reached for comment, Watt said that planning was ongoing, and that a formal announcement would be coming soon, hopefully by the end of the month. He urged patience as the festival staff continues to assess the possibilities. "Audience members may have a lot of questions that we can’t quite answer yet."