Need we admit that all eyes at NZIFF HQ headed first to our approval ratings? Happily for all concerned 97% of participants indicated that they were likely or very likely to attend NZIFF 2017. 95% were either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience of NZIFF this year. We are guessing that the 24 souls who characterised themselves as very dissatisfied were the same 24 who won’t be joining us next year or recommending that anyone else make that mistake.
It’s great to be able to report to our local body funders (or potential funders) how highly NZIFF rated with respondents as a contributor to civic pride. And our key sponsors will surely be pleased to learn that their presence was appreciated by so many NZIFF patrons.
Few opportunities to file a comment were left untaken. Reading every line has been engrossing, informative, entertaining and occasionally bruising. This summary concentrates on some recurrent themes in the great welter of feedback – and a few of the more vividly expressed words of approval or advice. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the lively and overwhelmingly positive survey.
Our printed programme and website still rule when it comes to sourcing information about NZIFF and making film choices, but word-of-mouth and Radio New Zealand coverage also rated highly. One respondent scolded us for the spoilers in our film descriptions, but stopped short of providing examples. Meanwhile others asked to know more about what happens in a film and less about the filmmaker or festival prizes. “Fewer adjectives” suggested one respondent, leaving us to move gratefully on to an adjective we liked: “Wonderful programme notes.”
Films for Everyone
Variety is clearly the spice of NZIFF, and the v word provided the most frequent characterisation of what’s good about our programme. “Quality” and “range” were two others. Many respondents asked to see more music documentaries or films from the regions that particularly interested them. The lack of Russian and Scandinavian films was widely remarked, but we can assure you that we considered several. The prominence of New Zealand films on the programme met much approval, and it’s clear that the love engendered by Poi E sets a new benchmark for Opening Night festivity. We were thrown by one suggestion that there’s no point in NZIFF’s screening New Zealand films as they are guaranteed exposure here anyway. Tell that to the filmmakers. A few respondents took the opportunity to write with feeling about films they wish we had not selected, most forcefully Elle, Things to Come, (sorry, Isabelle), High Rise. Others wrote enthusiastically about The Handmaiden, Radio Dreams, Wild, The Handmaiden, Embrace and The Handmaiden...
“Change the show timings to suit my calendar!” We appreciated this witty encapsulation of a common plea. There’s a perception that there are not enough evening or weekend sessions of some films, although we always provide at least one such screening of every film we show. There were several suggestions that the programme is too short – despite the week of NZIFF Extra Days scheduled in Auckland and Wellington. Late week night start times met with protests: we knew as we were scheduling this year that we had more of those than ever, thanks to the durations of many films in the earlier evening slots. Note to films currently in production: keep it snappy. Several NZIFF newcomers felt insufficiently warned that there would be no ad films. Others told us they relished not having to sit through them. Many respondents asked for “better” notification and a longer lead time on our added screenings.
People and Places
Our mighty quartet of grand venues – The Civic, The Embassy, The Isaac Theatre Royal, The Regent – were celebrated again and again. We were just as pleased to see the friendliness of cashiers, floor staff and volunteers frequently mentioned. There is debate about the suburbanisation of NZIFF to Petone and Miramar in Wellington; and to Manukau and the Wild West of Auckland. These screenings are invariably repeats of films available in the CBD venues. They are intended primarily for the convenience of those who live nearby – and who were very happy this year to make the most of them. Rest assured, wherever NZIFF goes the main event is irrevocably and forever a downtown affair… with all the rewards and challenges that entails.
‘Other patrons’ were frequently deemed a menace, with the all too familiar and justifiable complaints about latecomers, chatterers, munchers, masticators and the inappropriate flourishing of mobile devices. On the other hand, the convivial vibe and the sense of a community of strangers rated many favourable mentions.
Specific complaints about ticketing were eloquently expressed. This assists us enormously in feeding back to suppliers – and to the venues that contract those suppliers. In the case of Wellington, where we are free to supply our own ticketing, our first-morning problem, bitterly recalled in many responses, was mortifying. What can we say now but that we put it right as quickly as humanly possible?
Though we asked no specific question about it, feedback on pricing was 50/50 and we were amazed and delighted that anyone would volunteer the feedback that pricing is “great” or “very reasonable”. Those citing overseas festivals that provide all-sessions passes for $200 or so, have been attending festivals subsidised beyond our wildest dreams. Almost 90% of our income is derived from ticket sales.
Films for Schools
Many NZIFF patrons will be unaware of our popular Shorts for Schools programmes which introduce primary school children in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch to international cinema with highlights from our Animation for Kids programmes. Year 4 & 5 students from North East Valley Normal School in Dunedin were asked to rate this year’s programme out of five. All students but one gave it the full five. Explaining his two, the lone dissenter reminds us that there’s always room for improvement: “Someone kept doing salami burps over my shoulder. Please sort this out for next time.”