Image: Wellington school children attend a special NZIFF screening at the Embassy Theatre (Photo credit Ambrose Hickman). View our visual summary of the survey feedback over on our Facebook page.
Deciding What to See
“My wife chose the movies and I was happy with her choices”.
We enjoyed lavish praise for the new website, but note that the printed brochure still takes prime place as a guide to film selection. In 2015 we’ll be acting on the numerous requests for a PDF of the printed publication on our site. We were surprised and relieved to see how few people admitted to seeing the film still in the programme as a key influence. (You’d be amazed how many producers continue to sell themselves short by providing lacklustre stills.)
Rotten Tomatoes was named so often as an external source of guidance that we’d like to drill further: is it the audience ratings there or the critics’ approval rankings that hold sway? We were pleased to note the high use of two sponsor sites too: Flicks.co.nz and Letterboxd.
One respondent noted that we weren’t always on the ball about getting trailers on to our site. We’ve often booked films before the trailers have been cut. We are dependent on far-flung film suppliers to keep us in the loop as new marketing material is released. We’ll pester them harder in 2015.
As is the way with arts world surveys, female respondents outnumbered male. Maybe one man spoke for a silent multitude when he told us that “my wife chose the movies and I was happy with her choices”.
“I always book early and get given seats right in the middle whereas I would rather sit at the back.”
Complaints in recent years had made it very clear that ticketing was a major source of patron frustration. Big changes to ticketing in Auckland and Wellington this year were hard won and clearly brought about significant improvements. We’re no longer overwhelmed with complaints, but it’s clear that there’s still work to be done. Seat allocation and pass redemption are the primary concerns. We are working with our ticketers to improve these. The ten movie limit per transaction built into Ticketmaster’s site has been a major disappointment to us, our site developers and to Auckland patrons. We, along with our venues, have been making the strongest representations to find a work round.
Venues and Staff
“The staff are totally ace”
The Civic, the Embassy and the Regent were cited repeatedly as our greatest assets, with roof-raising screenings of Housebound frequently mentioned in the same breath. Along with Scarlett Johansson and Jarvis Cocker, a few staff received several shout-outs each; Eric Kearney dispensing information at The Civic, Josh Thomas spreading enthusiasm in Dunedin, the Hoyts crew extending a warm welcome at Northlands, and helpful volunteers everywhere.
“Well done putting New Zealand films in key screening spots”.
We were pleased to see that our new ability to add extra screenings of popular films and publicise them quickly via social media was widely remarked upon.
Multiple thumbs were up for the programme and the variety of choice it offered. More specific comments could often be lined up in opposing pairs. “Too many documentaries” vs “More documentaries please.” One respondent observed NZIFF is becoming “more commercialised and underwhelming by the year”. Another tells us that “such an improvement over the previous two years restored my faith in the FF.” Wellington patrons bemoaned the absence of films that screened in Melbourne. Christchurch patrons bemoaned the absence of films that screened in Wellington. Palmerston North patrons bemoaned the lack of audience for films that screened in Palmerston North.
Several asked if they might suggest films for future festivals. They might be surprised how many films come to our attention this way every year: just email us some information about the film that interests you and we’ll happily look into it.
“Be forceful re audience behaviour!”
Other people are proving a hindrance to film going pleasure for a number of our most eloquent respondents. “Be forceful re audience behaviour!” cries one. There’s only so much we or venue staff can do about stroppy latecomers, incessant blatherers or tragic smartphone addicts. We encourage the ardent disciplinarians amongst you to take matters into your own hands.
When Shit Happens
“How about checking the subtitles before the screening?”
There were several heartfelt complaints about last-minute notification of technical failures. We are still grappling with this ourselves.
With digital projection, technical failure is increasingly rare. This year we scheduled 2,184 screenings across 31 screens: three suffered from subtitle malfunction and four were cancelled altogether. This may make you feel even worse if you were amongst the inconvenienced. But when failure does occur these days it is often a last-minute affair. The best brains in the land were bent on writing the codes to enable subtitles or unlock the screening files up until an hour before screening on many more than six occasions this year. More often than not they succeeded.
So, knowing when to pull the plug on a screening is a quandary to which there is currently no standard solution.
We Hear You
“I have made suggestions in the past on specific films and have never received any feedback or acknowledgement”
We were chagrined to learn that email enquiries had sometimes gone unanswered during the festival, and will work on a targeted online directory to be more responsive when staff are too distracted to attend.
One tweeter cited our failure to retweet his or her endorsements as evidence of an “insular attitude, typical of New Zealand arts institutions.” Youch, but honestly, it’s neither lofty detachment nor the delusion of self-sufficiency that keep us from amplifying your obviously excellent judgement. We’re probably typical of arts organisations anywhere: our team is small and sometimes we’re too damned busy oiling the squeaky wheels to hear the music. The great thing about November is that we have time to take serious stock of feedback that isn’t always a joy to read, while luxuriating in that 97% vote of confidence. Both are crucial as plans for NZIFF 2015 take shape.
If you would like to get in touch with NZIFF at any time during the year please email firstname.lastname@example.org.