Rob: Some news coming out this week about how the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is going to happen in the wake of COVID-19. What’s going on?

Festival Director Joanna Croston: It’s pretty exciting news for us. We’re going to have our first ever virtual festival, October 31st to November 8th, and we’re really excited about being able to offer something.

Rob: Have you had a lot of filmmakers interested in submitting this year?

Joanna: We have 120 entries. I expect that number to probably triple before the competition deadline at the beginning of August, but there hasn’t been a slowdown in submissions to our competition at all. I’m expecting between 70 and probably 90 films that’ll be available during the virtual festival, which is on par with a normal live event that we would have.

Rob: Is this going to be a ticketed event?

Joanna: It will be. We’re planning to have pay-per-view basically, and video on demand film programs, but what we’re going to try and do is make the pricing a lot more accessible than it would have been for a live event.

Rob: Will there be opportunities to have any at-home interactive elements as part of the festival as well?

Joanna: We’re planning a lot of filmmaker Q and A’s, we’re probably do those through Zoom. We haven’t confirmed the platform yet, but it’ll be something like that. Also, we’re planning for a similar Meet the Authors event, as well as panel discussions. We’ll continue with our always important Indigenous dialogue and those will all be events where there’ll be some audience participation.

Rob: You’re doing a virtual marketplace and beer tent. How’s that going to work?

Joanna: We’re going to do our best to replicate a live trade show. Of course that’s going to be kind of impossible, but what we’re going to do is offer a virtual space for our sponsors to provide specials that people can purchase online, showcase new products, tell us a little bit about their line of products that they do have. They’ll have a hub for that, and we’re going to call that the virtual marketplace. Then for the beer tent, we’re going to engage one of the parties apps that are available online. Something like House Party, or maybe Zoom again, where we’ll get everyone to dial in at a specific time of day, share a beer with us online, and we’ll have some of the festival guests there as well.

Rob: An option that I guess would have been available to you is to say “We’re going to put this on hold for 2020, we’ll see you in 2021.” Why did you want to go forward with something this year?

Joanna: We’ve never not had a festival in 45 years so it seemed important to have something. The nature of film lends itself well to this type of event. People’s safety is the ultimate concern here, and so to make people feel comfortable about attending this is, I think, the best way forward. We’re actually kind of excited about it because we might have more global reach than we ever have before at the festival.

Rob: When do tickets go on sale and where can people purchase them?

Joanna: We’re going to likely have our tickets on sale in September. We haven’t confirmed the exact date yet. We will send out some big notices by social. The beauty of this is once the festival is going you can just log in and purchase right on the spot. You don’t necessarily need to purchase an advance like you normally would, so that’s another great silver lining of this plan that we have.

Rob: You mean I might actually be able to get in to see Radical Reels this year?

Joanna: Exactly. We won’t be sold out in early September. Depending on filmmaker needs there may be some films that have a limited run that we’ll have to limit the number of tickets sold, but for the most part, there’ll be tons of content that’ll just be all open-ended and unlimited ticket sales. So we’re pretty excited about that too.