What makes a good film festival website?
October 5, 2007 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Film Festival People - What annoys you the most about film festival websites? And what are things that you I'm building one and want it to be as good as it can be.

I know about the typical gripes, like they're very flashy and often ugly with too many slick gadgets. I'm keeping mine simple, easy to update, and lightweight (pure HTML, if possible, not a frame of flash in this sucker). So talk to me about what you like and don't like.

This is going to be the first year of a hopefully annual festival, and all included information is going to have to at least be bilingual and display east Asian text and all the funny encoding that entails fairly well, because we're doing this in China. Is there one encoding system for simplified Mandarin you like better than others? And I'm planning to do this with NVU, is there anything I should be aware of? This will be my first time using this software.

Any suggestions, opinions, anything at all really, will be deeply appreciated.
posted by saysthis to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's the scale of your festival, roughly? I have different needs and expectations from the TIFF website (where I need to learn about and track 300 movies) than for my city's film festival, where there are only about 40. And probably a different set of things I want in a university film festival featuring 10 movies, although I haven't thought about that in a while.
posted by Stacey at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2007

A few things that I'd love to see in a film festival site:
- one giant page with a big alphabetical listing of ALL film titles (plus short info and maybe a small image for each), that I can just scroll through easily, without paging;
- similarly, a big page featuring all film posters in either full view or thumbnail view;
- a url-scheme that doesn't expire even after the festival is over, so I don't end up with a bunch of broken links in my blog.
posted by milov at 8:28 AM on October 5, 2007

3) PICTURES (screen caps are great)
4) THEATER LOCATIONS (links to Google Maps, please)

I think there should be a big master calendar where you can see the whole program laid out.

But there should also be one complete page for each film that includes title, description, and showtimes (so people can email the URL to each other and say 'hey want to go see this? here's all the info').
posted by scarabic at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2007

I'm just going by the one I know with some familiarity (VIFF), but I find it very hard to navigate; there's a lot of categories, and although they do a good job of organizing all the films so that they're searchable (ie. under title, date, director, and such), it's hard for me to pick one of those listings out--that is, to me it feels like there's a lot of clutter on their search page that makes it hard to pick out the info I want.

So good organization of pertinent information? The festival runs for about three weeks, by the way, so it's on the larger scale.
posted by elisynn at 8:33 AM on October 5, 2007

I'd like to see a space for attendee comments on each film, especially if you're doing more than one showing. So if I'm considering seeing a film, I can see what other people who have already seen it thought of it.

If you're showing multiple films together in a single program (several shorts all together, or a feature with a short or two) be sure to crosslink their entries. Most film festival sites give the run time for each film, but what I'd like to see in addition to that is, when two or more are being shown in the same program, the total run time for the whole program.

If you have more than one theater, separated by a non-trivial distance, then on the "venues" page where you give the locations of the different theaters, it would be nice to also have estimated travel times between the different venues.

Seconds for "one big master schedule" and "one big alphabetical list."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:44 AM on October 5, 2007

Response by poster: Yikes, forgot to include the scale info here! Probably 40-50 films around town (Beijing) for the first year, but will take international submissions. We've got an eye to getting bigger, but for now we're just taking the approach that "these films are 'real' underground films that you won't see at festivals sponsored by major studios".

Which means, that yeah, getting all the film info on one page, with screencaps and everything, is especially important, because no one will have heard of these before.

Thank you hive mind!'
posted by saysthis at 8:48 AM on October 5, 2007

Response by poster: And keep 'em coming!
posted by saysthis at 8:55 AM on October 5, 2007

But there should also be one complete page for each film that includes title, description, and showtimes (so people can email the URL to each other and say 'hey want to go see this? here's all the info').

A permalink is essential.

I also appreciate the ability to save films I'm interested in into a list; SXSW's film fest takes this a step further and lets you add films to your calendar, which you can then import into a PDA/iCal/gCal, etc. But that might be overkill for you.

They're also pretty big film festival that runs 10 days or so, with a handful of venues across town.

Ditto on how much travel time to allot between venues. And/or if something's expected to be popular (arrive early/expect long lines/etc.). But that might be asking a lot!
posted by kathryn at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2007

I was always irked by the DC filmfest's site when it only showed films organized by day. The times should be listed per film and also by time/theater.

So have a big chronological table, times/locations on each movie desc. page, and a page for each theater's linup -- ideally.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:15 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I want a PDF of the catalogue/schedule/book thing. It annoys and baffles to no end that many film festival websites still insist on using these ridiculously confusing and unusable menu-type interfaces.

I want to know what films are playing, and when and where. Period. That's all in the book, so PDF the book and save me the hassle.
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:20 AM on October 5, 2007

Be really clear about ticketing options. Every festival has its procedure for pre-purchased individual tickets, various packages or passes, special events that require special tickets, line-up rules, etc. A) Make those rules as CLEAR as possible. B) Make the explanation for those rules as clear as possible. C) Make the lineups for each of those categories at the festival as clear as possible. I HATE wandering around going, "I have the student pass for the festival, but I registered for this film at the sign-in sheets, so do I stand in line for pre-tickets or the sponsor line or the hope line?" That's not website info per se, but what you put on the site itself will matter how people then approach the films and the festival experience.
posted by barnone at 9:25 AM on October 5, 2007

A map to where it's located is always a nice thing. :)
posted by drstein at 9:28 AM on October 5, 2007

Please allow me to use your website without giving you my email and thus suffering one thousand emails from film festival-related businesses. Please!
posted by samh23 at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2007

The thing I didn't like about the MIFF website was that it wasn't as easy to navigate as the printed booklet. I first picked up the booklet which was given free with the alternative weeklies and got used to the layout but when I went to the website it was structured differently enough to make me have to search for what I wanted to find. Although the website had lots of great information and was designed well it should have some consistency with other promotional information. The web designers need to work directly with the print designers to come up with a similar layout or structure that works for both.
posted by JJ86 at 9:33 AM on October 5, 2007

- Page for each theatre, especially in a big city
- Page for each film
- Page for each country, if applicable
- Page for each day
- All printed material and website material should match. If it does not, you need to say, "This was incorrectly printed in the brochure. All info on the website is the most recent information."
posted by barnone at 9:40 AM on October 5, 2007

Can you please, please, please, please, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, have a viewing schedule that is not a PDF. Please. (Offer the PDF, natch, but it is an unholy pain in the ass to try to get your movies updated to IMDB if the only proof of premiere is a PDF.)
posted by headspace at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2007

NUMERO UNO: a very obvious link on the front page to the actual schedule. It's the first thing most people want to see; don't bury [NSFW] it in a list.

And please: scalable fonts are nice. We know you have a lot of information to present on one screen, but if the customer can't read any of it, it's no use.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:13 AM on October 5, 2007

Repeat the crucial information as much as you can. For example if you have a schedule page (i hope you do) each film titles should link to the description of said film which itself should show in big bold letters the time of the showing and the theater it's going to be shown at.
When i say big bold letter i mean almost as big and bold as the title of the movie.
Basically it's the classic What, Where, When that's what people want to know.
posted by SageLeVoid at 11:23 AM on October 5, 2007

The ability to sort films by title, director, genre (including country of origin and length if there are mixed shorts/features), day & location. And information on all of these. Don't be afraid to link outside your own festival site.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:20 PM on October 5, 2007

Oh, and by rating if it's family friendly.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:20 PM on October 5, 2007

Make it easy for people to book/purchase more than one ticket online.

A local major ticket vendor did the ticketing for our latest film festival and it was not made clear how to purchase more than one ticket per session. For those that don't have the time and perseverence that meant they were paying separate booking fee for each movie. Bastards.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:15 PM on October 5, 2007

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