The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a considerable burden on the arts, as films and performances can no longer safely be showcased the way they once were. For the Raleigh Film & Art Festival, though, crafting a virtual space to highlight the broad spectrum of work from creatives around the country was a new and exciting experience.
Chris Moore, executive director of Raleigh Film & Art Festival, founded the organization in 2012 with the goal of providing an inclusive platform for creatives. The festival spotlights all art forms, from live performance to visual art to poetry to film. They feature panels with directors and industry professionals, and pride themselves on the support and encouragement they can give to newcomers in the entertainment industry.
One major goal of the festival is to inspire creativity in young people, Moore said. There is a film festival for high school students with a scholarship prize, as well as a movie poster design contest and virtual painting classes.
This year, social safety requirements made their commitment to affordability easier to implement. Through a virtual event, festivalgoers have all weekend to explore and enjoy the arts and face no payment barrier to do so.
“We made the tickets free, [and] that opened up the doors for people from all over that want to support their friends and family,” Moore said. “We wanted the students, especially, to come experience this and see what these amazing, creative minds have to offer.”
One of the biggest hurdles of virtual event planning was creating the interface, Moore said. Over the last six months, the Raleigh Film & Art Festival has worked with engineers and animation and gaming industry professionals, both in and outside of NC State, to create an online portal for the event.
“It’s sort of like a video game,” Moore said. “We have 120 films, we have theatre plays and panel discussions, poetry, music performances and directors’ corners, [and] all of that fit neatly into this nice little virtual portal that’s kind of tucked behind doors, so that our guests will be able to come, click on the door and enter into this beautiful virtual entertainment complex.”
After short films, student films is the most populated competitive category this year. The selections span from all over the country but feature the work of NC State alumni as well. Many of the staff members at the Raleigh Film & Art Festival are also NC State affiliated, including current student Jordan Bell, a third-year studying communication media. Bell interned with the festival this year and had the opportunity to organize and conduct celebrity interviews.
“[It’s] been really fun,” Bell said. “Art can be a tough career field to go into, so it’s nice to hear from people who have been successful with it.”
Bell added that people who reserve a ticket for the festival will get free access to these directors’ panels, and have the opportunity to learn from these professionals.
“The advice that they’ve been giving has been helpful to any career field,” Bell said. “A lot of the people that I’ve been interviewing have been minorities, and I am a minority myself, so it’s just been great to hear their success stories and the things that they went through and things that they’ve accomplished despite the odds.”
Moving to a virtual space was undoubtedly a challenge, but the Raleigh Film & Art Festival’s commitment to supporting and uplifting creatives is not easily abandoned. In fact, it is more important now than ever that artists have an avenue to express themselves and share their work with others. Moore and his team have worked tirelessly to open these doors, not just for festivalgoers, but for the artist in everyone.
“Through the arts and through everyone working together, that’s how society heals,” Moore said.
The Raleigh Film & Art Festival will be held Oct. 2-4, 2020. To learn more about the festival, visit their website.