LA GRANDE — The 2020 Eastern Oregon Film Festival was a success, festival Director Christopher Jennings declared, even as the event was all online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Going into the festival this year there were a lot of unknowns,” Jennings said. “Our hopes were to do our best to share our region, audience and spirit with visiting filmmakers.”
Transforming the traditional weekend full of live screenings and sessions with directors to a digital format wasn’t easy, according to Jennings, and there were a couple of technical hurdles to overcome during last weekend’s virtual event. One of the film selections had a file corruption that was unable to be resolved before the festival started, and festival staff addressed smaller technical glitches.
“Working hard to maintain the unique energy of EOFF, our creative team pushed through technical challenges to provide Zoom Q&As via livestream through the Eventive platform. Three-camera live video from hq’s stage allowed for the director’s message, a fun set for Zoom and a great delivery for live music,” Jennings said.
Virtual programing from the festival is likely to continue as the event team prepares for next season. Eventive will be the festival’s ticketing and event management tool moving forward, Jennings said.
“This will allow EOFF to program virtually throughout the year, build an audience and attract visitors to EOFF 2021, while tracking all of our successes in one digital hub,” Jennings said. “As EOFF was able to reach a new level of audience participation this year, we can continue to serve an international audience throughout the year via online streaming and attract more visitors to our physical events, the Liberty Theatre and the Grande Ronde Valley in the future.”
Jennings said the only thing missing from the 2020 festival was the in-person interaction with festival-goers.
For the last 11 years, he said, the film festival has thrived because of the local and regional festival attendees. However, through digital programing, the festival was able to reach a larger audience. The festival streamed more than 3,000 events over the weekend and sold more than 1,300 tickets, with 250 unique ticket holders from all over the world.
“We missed being able to share our valley with visiting filmmakers. We missed getting sweaty and vulnerable with fellow humans through lively music, dance and spirits,” Jennings said. “There is a big loss suffered to the spirit of our festival, and for all cultural, in-person events across the globe, so being able to connect in some way was a blessing.”
Still, Jennings also said, the shift to a virtual format allowed the EOFF team to reach new heights with technical achievements and creativity.
“The creative team, as with filmmaking, is the core of telling a good story,” he continued. “Whether it is a short or feature film, or the story of a grassroots rural film festival working hard to break barriers and build a space to support filmmakers, audiences and creatives in La Grande, Eastern Oregon and, now, all over the world.”