Event Planning Inspiration from Toronto's ReelWorld Film Festival

ReelWorld Film FestivalInitially, the similarities between film festivals, corporate events, conferences, and trade shows may not be apparent, however, these seemingly disparate events actually share a number of common elements.

The ReelWorld Film Festival, which opened in Toronto a few days ago, is a prime example of a film industry events that, like conferences, trade shows and corporate events, incorporates professional development, panels, programs for emerging professionals (ReelYouth), entertainment, and galas.

ReelWorld was the brainchild of Tonya Lee Williams, the two-time Emmy nominated actress who played Dr. Olivia Barber Winters on the Young and the Restless. In 1999, Tonya launched ReelWorld to address the lack of diversity on Canadian movie screens. It has evolved and this year it is showcasing feature films, shorts, documentaries, music videos, and webisodes from the Aboriginal, African, African American, French, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, South East Asian and West Indian communities.

In an era of tight budgets, a number of the strategies to pull together a festival of this magnitude would be equally beneficial for corporate events, trade shows and conferences.

  1. Source cost-effective venues.
    Over the years, ReelWorld has used movie theatres during off-peak hours, community centres and, for meetings, complimentary venues like Toronto's Metro Hall.
  2. Stretch food, beverage and venue budgets with "in-kind" sponsorships.
    Just as event planners have a need to maximize food, beverage, and venue budgets, suppliers also have a need to get the word out about what they offer. By customizing "in-kind" sponsorship packages and offering tangible benefits, ReelWorld has created win-win partnerships to minimize direct catering and venue rental costs.

    In exchange, suppliers derived the important benefit of giving attendees a chance to sample their cuisine or experience their venues firsthand. Depending on the level of sponsorship, sponsors also benefited from ads in the program guide, logos on the website, brochures and collateral material, tickets, and mentions in the opening and closing remarks for films and galas.
  3. Match food and beverage choices to programming.
    Destiny, this year's opening gala film, was shot primarily in Jamaica and produced and directed by Jeremy Whittaker, a Jamaican filmmaker living in Canada. The Caribbean cuisine provided by supplier/sponsors was a perfect fit for this gala and some of the other screenings.
  4. Diversify the sponsorship base.
    Instead of just going after sponsors in the film and television industry, ReelWorld has solicited and obtained sponsorships from a variety of industries include banks and IT Firms. This has helped spread the word about the festival beyond the film and television community.
  5. Build credibility with a base of support from Government and other high level officials.
    ReelWorld has effectively built this base as evidenced by a full page of support in the program guide from Government agencies and 7 high ranking officials including the Governor General of Canada, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and the mayors of Toronto and the City of Markham.
  6. Branch out to local communities.
    ReelWorld's support base has paid off in the form of an invitation extended by Mayor Frank Scarpitti of the City of Markham to hold a 3 day ReelWorld in Markham festival from April 11 - 13 to celebrate Markham's dramatic transformation from a small, relatively homogeneous community in the mid 1990s to Canada's most diverse community today.

    The Mayor and other Markham Government officials assisted ReelWorld in finding local venues and suppliers for this high profile local event.

Event planners facing the challenge of doing more with less can pick up ideas and draw inspiration from events in other sectors.

For more inspiration from events in other industries, also consult Toronto Fashion Week Is Setting New Trends for Event Planners, Toronto: Star Power and Lessons for Event Planners from the Equestrian Industry.

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