THE PARTICIPATORY SCREEN

By Rachael Geary, April 13, 2021
Zoom enhances the festival participation experience

“My laptop is about to die!” A FLEFF blogger messages me. We are at the Zoom after party of Claudia Pederson’s book launch and talking about visual anthropology.

I try to hide my giggling since my camera is on. I look on my screen and see this particularly blogger trying to stifle a smile as well.

Then, her screen disappears.

Her laptop is dead.

Having a film festival be completely online this year means that there are some unforeseen technical problems to arise. Although our social batteries may lose charge during in-person after parties, we would not have to worry about being booted out of an event like we do virtually.

However, what the virtual sphere does have that the physical sphere does not is the ability to have the event participants right in front of your eyes. This makes it helpful to know who is in the FLEFF event.

Cindy Hung-Yuk Wong wrote in her book, Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen, that the most important part of film festivals is audience participation. With Zoom, the bloggers were able to quickly and consistently provide the event attendees with links and additional information during discussions and panels.

During a conversation with two environmental artists Ash Arder and Paloma Barhaugh-Bordas, myself and other bloggers were responsible for carefully listening to what the artists were saying and providing links to the Zoom chat. Barhaugh-Bordas screenshared their artist website, and within seconds their website link was provided in the chat.

As FLEFF bloggers, we learned how to be quick with supplying information to the event attendees. This way, the participants can engage with the material that is being discussed during real-time.

Although FLEFF is a film festival and films were screened, I recall these Zoom events the most because of how participatory it was. Watching films was more of a solitude act for me, but once FLEFF gathered through Zoom, what I had seen on screen came to life through these panels.