International Film Festival Participation Network and its Effects on Film Life-Cycles: A Cultural Data Analytics Approach

Oct 20, 2022
ECREA 2022 9th European Communication Conference “Rethink Impact”, Aarhus University, Denmark


The festival circuit forms an organic part of the film industry marketing and networking system, characterised by complex network structures of individuals, companies, and events (Loist, 2016). Festivals create cultural value by promoting filmmakers and films via inclusion into programming, and have an agenda-setting effect within the discourse of film culture, acting as media events (de Valck, 2007) as well as industry networking events. However, due to limited availability of comprehensive programming data that would extend national jurisdictions, the international film festival circuit has been rarely studied using data-driven methods (but cf. Loist, 2017-2022).

In this context, our work builds on our access to data from Cinando, an online platform operated by Marché du Film – the film market of the Cannes film festival. The platform services film festivals and their associated markets by facilitating global film industry operations, including rights sales and investments, as well as business-to-business VOD viewing. It relies on a large, relational database listing information on professionals, companies, festivals, and associated films. Based on this, we have studied the bipartite network of film–festival participation during 2014-2020. Over the six-year period, 64,607 films have been traced across 33,542 festival events, amounting to a total of 159,156 film–festival observations.

We examine the creation of public value in the hierarchy of international film festivals, ranging from top-tier events such as Cannes and Berlinale to specialized festivals like Sheffield DocFest. Adopting a cultural data analytics approach (Ibrus, Schich, Tamm 2021), we combine the perspectives and methods of film and creative industry studies, data science, network analysis, and media economics. We elucidate the structure of the international film festival participation network, including clusters and overlaps in programming, to distinguish specific groups of festivals in terms of the public value added to the broader film industry, as well as their roles in the careers of filmmakers from specific origins and the life cycles of films produced on certain budget levels. We focus specifically on the lifecycles of films from Europe’s smaller countries and in the conclusion will make also suggestions for what could the film agencies and producers in such countries consider when developing their festival exhibition strategies.

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