With the 2020 edition of the Richmond International Film Festival postponed, RIFF has found that the best way to stay active is to go digital.
With the effect COVID-19 has had on all our lives, entertainment has fully transitioned into the virtual realm for everyone — even your local film festival. The 2020 Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF), which was supposed to take place over a week in April, postponed this year’s edition of the festival; until they’re able to return in person, RIFF has opted in for a virtual reality.
The film industry as a whole has taken a significant hit, with productions being halted and premiere dates postponed until the fall, or later. “We’re pretty much on standby,” said RIFF president and executive director Heather Waters. “Nobody can shoot right now. I think this will be a significant loss in a number of ways for crew members, directors, actors, venues, locations.”
While they — and everyone else in the film industry — are dealing with this situation, RIFF has launched an educational online series, RIFFx. The series, featuring conversations with filmmakers, music performances, and more, has appeared in the form of live streams on RIFF’s Facebook page. The series is designed to be interactive, allowing the public to ask questions and converse with the participants in each stream. Lasting around 45 minutes to an hour, RIFFx installments, of which there have been nine so far, have featured filmmakers like Tania Raymonde, Joseph Aliberti, Mark Schimmel, and more.
“We wanted to do something innovative, rather than sit back and wait,” said Waters. “What I’m trying to do with the online series is to entertain, but make them informative and educational, all in one.”
Some of the episodes have also featured a musical component, and Waters hopes to use these episodes to introduce viewers to new artists from around the country. “We’re kind of an SXSW model,” she said. “These are up and coming, emerging, but still, cutting-edge artists that cross over to every genre.”
With the pandemic giving people more of a reason to rely on entertainment, entertainment-based organizations like RIFF are finding new ways to engage with their audience — and they’ve seen positive results.
“Seeing people doing positive things in the community to help others keep the support going — I think Richmond is doing just that by supporting festivals like ours,” said Waters. “That creates a lot of goodwill, and we need that right now.”
As of right now, Waters is hoping for the festival to be rescheduled to sometime in the late summer, but things will have to be improving for a bit before that. “We plan year-round,” said Waters. “We were about seven weeks out from the festival when we had to postpone, so we will at least need seven weeks to pick it back up.”
Top Photo via Richmond International Film Festival/Facebook