Shutting down the SXSW Film Festival was devastating for young filmmakers and industry sponsors alike. However, a little intervention from the richest man in the world is showing that you don't need to gather as a crowd to put on a film festival...
The 2020 SXSW Film Festival crew has amassed 39 shorts, features, and episodic pieces for this year's selection. Due to the Shelter in Place ordinances that have swept the world over the course of the last month, the brick and mortar version of this festival was shelved and replaced by a virtual one.
When SXSW was canceled buy the Austin, Texas local government, Amazon immediately stepped in and offered up their platform to showcase the newest SXSW content. However, investors of these movies are raising concerns about the accessibility of the films and the lack of perceived exclusivity that goes into running a successful film festival.
In addition to investors, filmmakers themselves have started to get cold feet about their submissions to the virtual film festival as well. Evidently, Amazon has been asking for exorbitant screening fees in return for, well, nothing really.
Amazon has stepped up to offer their platform, but they are not considering the implications of what happens to the movies after they screen for free to millions of people. Exclusivity and mystery are a film distributer's best friend.
With Amazon refusing to purchase the rights to these independent films to screen them (which would be a monumentally positive notion), these films lose value to distributors that plan on surveying and purchasing the films from the creators.
Seven major (unnamed) filmmakers have withdrawn their features from the 2020 SXSW lineup simply because they need to make money off of their craft. So, despite the good intentions behind Amazon's offer, this may not benefit filmmakers in the long run.
However, 39 films will be screened between April 27th and May 6th via Amazon's streaming service. Some SXSW dropouts have vowed to show their films over Stage 32 for a small fee, and some others have posted their work on Vimeo to view for free.