The streaming engines we now take for granted from our homes like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, are becoming the lifeline for film festivals like Cinema Diverse trying to survive even after the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
The Palm Springs Cultural Center faced that crossroad after the shutdown happened in mid-March. Once an aggregator that had to rely on a film distributor’s website to stream a movie, the nonprofit successfully applied for a technology federal grant that opened the door to funding its own streaming engine.
That streaming engine will make its debut Sept. 11 when the 13th annual Cinema Diverse opens. The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival, set to run Sept. 11-30, will offer a mix of films that you can stream at home along with a pair of weekends featuring drive-in film experiences.
“I think if we had not been able to find a suitable streaming solution, we might have waited a year to hold the festival,” says Michael Green, executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “But we were really fortunate being able to set up and stream the festival. Obviously, all of the film festivals nowadays are looking at streaming solutions, because there's really not a lot of alternatives.”
Green chatted further with Palm Springs Life on what to expect at Cinema Diverse.
By purchasing your own streaming engine, you will have a nice tool to use going forward as I don’t think virtual screenings are going to go away. I think they are here to stay.
I agree. That's the reason we wanted to go ahead and invest in a streaming engine ourselves, because we do feel like it's going to continue. The other thing right now, with so many of the film studios going direct to streaming, I think there are going to be a lot of cases where, with independent films, they go into a theatrical run and then a week or two later they are going to start streaming online. So we wanted to have the ability to do both of those things.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JASON GAFFNEY
Jason Gaffney and Kevin Held star in Out of Body, which will screen as a drive-in experience on the opening night of Cinema Diverse.
How will you be structuring Cinema Diverse?
Starting on September 11, and running through September 30, we'll be streaming films online. In addition, we're going to have six drive-in events, where we'll show films at the drive-in on the 11th, 12th and 13th, and then the 18th, 19th and 20th. We've still got some films that we're waiting to announce and some films that we haven't added into the streaming engine yet. But hopefully, by the end of this week, we'll pretty much have everything in there.
So the streaming films and the drive-in films are separate when it comes to purchasing passes?
So we're using the same kind of model that we normally use, but it ends up being a much better deal for the consumer. When you buy an all-access pass it's usually per person, and now it's per household. So for most people, if there's two people in the household, it's literally half what it would normally cost. In some cases, it will be even less, depending on how many people there are in the household. The same is true for the six-packs and the individual passes.
Will you try and conduct Zoom interviews with filmmakers or virtual Q&As?
We've talked to several of the filmmakers and they are willing and want to do virtual Q&As. We haven't finalized who is doing what yet. I can tell you that the opening night drive-in film, Out of Body, which is the same guys who made Analysis Paralysis last year, they are all hoping to come out for that opening night at the drive-in.
So we'll either pre-record an interview with them or a Q&A with them and/or they will be able to socially distance, they will make an appearance in the beginning and/or at the end of the film — a live appearance.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SUBLET
John Benjamin Hickey (right) and Niv Nissim star in Sublet.
What we're hopefully going to be able to do is have people inside the theater and we'll actually record them inside the theater and stream it right outside to the drive-in, so people will be able to basically watch it live and ask questions live.
How would you characterize the films you've put together for this year's program?
I think we put together a really diverse group of films, even given the fact that it's a little more limited than it might normally be. I'm excited, some of the films are I think really different, they're unique, so I'm excited.
Any films that stick out?
We're doing a film called Song Lang, which is a Vietnamese film, really fascinating film that gets into the Vietnamese art and culture. I think people are really going to enjoy it. Then of course, we've got Sublet, which is (director) Eytan Fox, and we've screened two of his films before, Yossi & Jagger and Yossi.
We've got one that's about drag queens in London, in the UK, which is fun, because it's a little bit of a different take than we might see here in the United States. I know now that RuPaul has gone to England with the Drag Race, so we're getting to see a little bit of the British version of drag in the 21st century.
We're screening a film called Monsoon, another good film about Vietnam. This is about a guy who was rescued when Saigon was falling. He and his family left and he's never been back, doesn't even speak the language. He was raised in London, and so he comes back with his parents' ashes and explores both Saigon and Hanoi, and looks into the history of his parents. But he's gay and he meets a young fellow over there who is actually an American. So it's a very well done film, happy to have that one.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THE EBERSOLE AND HUGHES COMPANY
David's Friend by Palm Springs filmmakers duo P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes will screen Sept. 18 as part of the drive-in experiences.
I see there is a selection of short films too.
We've got a bunch of different shorts' compilations that include several returning filmmakers. Last year, we had a film called Handyman, and this year we have the sequel to that called Honey Do List. Probably filmmaker Nicholas Downs will come out for that. These short filmmakers love to come out, it would be really hard now that we can't have them in person, so we're really hoping to do some virtual things with those guys.
It's nice you have been able to pivot and do the festival.
We wanted to produce it and maintain the integrity of the film festival. So for us, it's really been about embracing the change. We were fortunate, because of having the (Camelot) theaters, we already had begun embracing that change.
For more information on the films and tickets, visit cinemadiverse.org.
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