Responding to an online distribution landscape driven primarily by the patterns of the video game industry, organizers of the leading international VR festivals have started on a plan to carve out a niche all for themselves – and for the artistically minded project their festivals champion.
“The creative or artistic content in VR do not have an identifiable place to be hosted [online],” Venice Film Festival VR curator Michel Reilhac, an expert in interactive and immersive media, tells Variety. “We think there’s a specific audience for these kinds of pieces, but [in the current online marketplaces] this content is drowned out in a sea of games. So we felt it was time to think of a way to congregate our artistic content within an identifiable platform that would be curated with a guarantee of quality.”
And so the Venice VR curator has partnered with counterparts at festivals like Tribeca, South by Southwest and NewImages, among others, to hash out a shared brand – a label, tentatively called The Festival Collection, that would unite their curated selections under a single point of access embedded in one of the major distribution outlets.
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“If you aggregate all pieces that have festival premieres in any given year, that’s between 200-250 pieces,” Reilhac continues. “So it would make a significant collection of quality content that has already been curated by the festival programmers. From the moment a piece would be selected for one of the festivals participating in the project, that piece would be immediately and automatically eligible for the collection.”
The idea remains in its infancy, and many details – including the full list of participating festivals and a partner platform that would host the collection – remain as of yet unfixed. Though Reilhac has handed the reins to Montreal’s Phi Center to coordinate the project, he does have a fairly clear idea as to how the final arrangement might look.
“Each year the full selection is approached,” he explains. “Out of this, let’s say 50% will accept. Some may accept right away, while some might only start the contract two years later. Some projects remain festival exclusive for up to three years. So it could be that their contract only starts three years later.”
“Then, the contract needs to be made,” he continues. “A standard contract would be a one-year presence that can be renewed either automatically or by request, and either the platform or producer can choose not to renew. Of course, the market is evolving so rapidly and radically that we don’t know where we’ll be in a year.”
Though the label’s final name, participating festivals and host platform are still being worked out, and the final timeline remains hazy, but the project’s mission remains clear. “The festivals provide launch-pads and visibility, but they do not provide income,” says Reilhac.
“If we want VR to become a market, it needs to generate income. So this is a way to capitalize on our curation.”
Pictured: “The Line”