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Moving online: Irish Film Festival director discusses transformation

As proud sponsors of the Australian Irish Film Festival (IFF) 2020, we spoke to festival director Dr. Enda Murray about his journey in filmmaking and the arts and how the festival has transitioned from offline to virtual in 2020.


We are a day away from the IFF 2020 launch, Enda how are you feeling?

I’m feeling more than a little nervous because it is such a huge leap for a small organisation but we have a marvellous bunch of people involved in the organising team and we have done our level best to make this a great festival. We know that a lot of Irish people did not make their annual trip home this year so we want to bring some Gaelic sunshine to Australia instead!


You founded the Irish Film Festival - what motivated you to create it?

I’ve been a filmmaker for 35 years and I’ve always been interested in Irish stories. When I lived in London I enjoyed attending the London Irish Film Festival and I wanted to recreate that vibe here in Australia.

I’ve found that as the years go by I have more in common with fellow migrants to Australia than I have with people who I grew up with because the migrant experience is such a huge part of my life journey.


"One of the aspects of the festival is to explore the experience of being Irish in Australia and to this end we have started a short film competition which is dedicated to filmmakers who are of Irish origin wherever they may be around the world."


Organising and launching the 2020 festival in a global pandemic is not what you planned? What have you learned?

Necessity is the mother of invention! Back in March the idea of running an online festival seemed beyond our technical capabilities but the pandemic has caused many changes to happen and people have had to adapt to a new reality. The streaming company we are working with has now hosted more than 150 film festivals worldwide so the online space is certainly a feasible space to work in now.


Making the move to virtual from offline. How was that process and what were the main challenges or benefits?

The key element to running an online festival is having a streaming platform which can provide the technology to host the films and the technology to enable audiences to rent and view those films. The main challenge is for a tiny arts organisation to find the resources and skills to manage and operate a high end technical process.


"A benefit of online film festivals is that they are accessible to people who might be denied access in a physical sense due to distance or disability."


Would you consider keeping a mix of virtual and offline for future festivals?

Yes this is a possibility. Talk to me again on November 29th when the festival wraps up and I’ll give you a clearer answer!


How have your peers and colleagues faced the challenges in the media and production industry? What types of new business models or new business opportunities are you seeing?

We are a cultural festival and the arts has a difficult time in Australia at the best of times. The pandemic has made it very difficult for the grassroots arts organisations who do not work in the commercial space who are the life-blood of our festival. Other countries such as Ireland support entry level arts because it is recognised as an entry point into the industry and also a place where artists and technicians hone their craft. I think Australia is in danger of losing its unique voice unless local production is ring fenced and supported.

Having successfully made the transition to a virtual festival in what has been a challenging year for many industries, we wish Dr. Murray and all the team working in the IFF best of luck with this year’s festival.


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