Going virtual

Gray Hughes

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time the Black Hills Film Festival is going entirely online.

Chris VanNess, executive director of the Black Hills Film Festival, said she is excited about this change as it can usher in a new era of the film festival.

“We have connected with a partner called Film Festivals Flix, and they are a streaming channel. So we are a virtual festival on their streaming channel,” she said. “And then phase two, we will also have our own streaming channel that will be up year-round.”

The film festival will be held from Feb. 18 through the 25 with over 50 films playing as well as multiple seminars and 35 question and answer sessions.

VanNess said this is “great” as it allows for more capacity to bring more films to everybody.

To access the film festival, people need to visit the film festival’s website through their phone, computer or TV and can look at all the films that are playing along with trailers. There, people will have two options to view; they can buy a single ticket or buy an all-access pass that grants them access to everything.

“We have the site broken down into different categories,” VanNess said. “We have the features and the feature documentaries and then we have nine short programs, and then we have our Native American films and our South Dakota films. In the various categories, we have a bunch of really great films. Our South Dakota films are really good. ...We also have films from Finland, France, Japan so people will be able to see some really interesting places.”

Traditionally, the film festival has filmmaking seminars people can attend. This year will be no different, albeit it will still be virtual.

Anyone who has a login through Film Festival Flix can watch the seminars. People, too, won’t have to pay an extra fee.

“Then we have discussions and little short pieces people have submitted. ... There are a lot of extras we were able to add in by people sending in videos that would be of interest to our audience,” VanNess said.

This has been in the works since September because, as VanNess put it, “we knew things weren’t going to improve too much by the time we would have the festival.”

VanNess said they immediately contracted with Film Festivals Flix and started laying out how they were going to carry out the festival. There has been a steep learning curve, she said, but it is something they always wanted to do because they can reach more people.

Through investing in the streaming channel, they will still have the film festival’s showings so that the film festival’s audience can watch on their own schedule and see more films.

“If they want to watch films at 2 in the morning that’s fine. They can do that,” VanNess said. “As we move forward and things open up after the pandemic, I think we’ll still have some hybrid. We’ll go back to our live presentations in the theaters and the parties and all that kind of thing, but they will still have the option to view them online. This gives more opportunity for our audience to see what they want to see.”

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