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Wolfson returns for IFFR Live! launch

As he continues to recover from illness, Rotterdam artistic director Rutger Wolfson made one of his first public appearances of the festival at an event to launch the festival’s bold new distribution venture, IFFR Live!.

This is the initiative (starting in earnest at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2015) where five to nine festival films will be given simultaneous “event” screenings in Rotterdam, in cinemas across Europe and on VOD and Pay TV.

The aim, Wolfson made clear, is to give festival audiences a jolt and to persuade them to become involved and excited about the films they are watching.

“Afterwards, people can ask questions of the cast and crew in the cinema in Rotterdam for example by raising their hands but (elsewhere) also by using a twitter hashtag,” said Wolfson, who took a break from his festival duties in November to recover from an autoimmune disease.

The aim, Wolfson continued, was to generate enough “buzz” from these initial one-off screenings for the films to “continue a run in cinemas in the different European territories”.

Representatives from the sales agents involved - Fortissimo, TrustNordisk and Doc & Film - were on hand to explain some of the logistical hurdles that need to be overcome in choosing the films and coordinating screenings with multiple partners.

They also pointed to the screenings’ usefulness to distributors as bellwethers of how films perform with audiences and as “a promotional window.”

Keynote speaker Pete Buckingham, former head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council, noted the paradox that we now “live in a world of film abundance where access is less and less of an issue and film is more accessible than ever before” and yet the “excitement” around cinema is still dissipating.

“This initiative [IFFR Live!] itself is a great starting point for actually building excitement,” Buckingham said of what he called ‘an intelligent new model’.

“Having a time limited, exclusive strong brand like the Rotterdam Festival is a wonderful starting point for building a concept of excitement, event and exclusivity.”

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