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Organizers of the Banff World Media Festival plan to keep the festivities online for 2021, offering a month-long virtual edition from June 14 to July 16.
The festival, which traditionally runs in mid-June at the Fairmont Banff Springs and attracts hundreds of delegates involved in television and digital media from around the world, made the announcement this week. While organizers of the 42-year-old festival say they are anxious to get back to in-person events, it simply isn’t in the cards for 2021.
“When you are planning a major international event, it has a long planning cycle,” said Jenn Kuzmyk, executive director of the Banff World Media Festival. “We’re not confident that people would be able to be travelling internationally or even across the country, that it would be safe to do so, by June. Thank God the vaccines are rolling out. But for us to plan at the scale that we do, it’s going to be a virtual festival.”
In 2020, The Banff World Media did its first completely online festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, running from late May until September. While it was virtual, it kept several traditional events. Masterclasses were held featuring some top names in the television and media industry, including the cast and creators of FX’s Mrs. America and Netflix’s Snowpiercer. There were also online panel discussions, both group and one-to-one networking sessions and the annual Rockie Awards.
“We had just weeks to pivot to an online festival,” Kuzmyk said. “I think we did it as well as anyone could. We were probably the first big international festival or conference to do it, which I think put us in a pole position, frankly. With the calibre of content and the masterclasses and the people who we got to participate across the country and internationally, we really were quite pleased and I think impactful in terms of exponentially expanding the number of people around the world who were watching and participating in both the festival and Rockie Awards. For us, that was a huge win. There were many, many challenges but a lot of silver linings and one of them was being able to bring people to the festival virtually that were perhaps not able to attend in person previously.”
Kuzmyk said the festival is even better positioned to take advantage of the virtual format and extended reach in 2021. For one, it has developed its own online platform to facilitate the various programs being offered. The new “online meeting and content environment” has been designed specifically for the entertainment business.
“Think of it as a dashboard,” she said. “You go into that environment and from (there) you can do anything you need to do: reach out to other people on there, message them, have video meetings with them. We’ll have virtual pavilions so you can go into a company’s virtual space and see what they have to offer and meet with their executives or talent. You can jump into sessions and jump back and go and have a meeting. It really will be quite an intuitive platform.”
The fact that the festival now takes place over a month rather than four days should also expand the number of delegates and guests able to participate.
“People do want to come to Banff in a sense in has an incredible reputation internationally and people feel honoured to be invited to participate,” Kuzmyk says. “But the truth is, there are schedules. If you are in production on something and can’t leave set in Australia or wherever you are, that’s always a challenge, those kinds of logistical and scheduling challenges we run up against. So asking for a few days or a week or someone’s time is completely different than asking for an hour or so.”
Still, Kuzmyk stresses that the festival will return to Banff and in-person activities as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We can’t wait to get back to Banff and we’re doing everything we can to put ourselves in the position that we can get back and be bigger and better than we ever were,” she said.
The Banff World Media Festival will run online from June 14 to July 16. Visit banffmediafestival.com to register or for more information.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021