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Women Make Waves Film Festival organizers hope to "put more bums on seats" at this year's event. (Courtesy of WMWFF).

 ‧ Publication Date:10/16/2009

 ‧ Source: Taiwan Today

 ‧ By  Tien-ying Hsu

As the 16th Women Make Waves Film Festival gets underway in Taipei Oct. 16, organizers are hoping that enhanced marketing efforts will boost the 10-day event’s visibility and translate into increased ticket sales.

“We have been crunching numbers non-stop to make our gender-focused celluloid dream come true this year,” said Yu Ting-ging, festival managing director, Oct. 6.

Like most indie film festivals around the world, Yu said Women’s has always watched pennies, managing to keep the wolf from the door over the past 16 years through the support of dedicated volunteers and a small but steady stream of government sponsorship.

“Our choice to limit state funding is a good thing because it means we can remain true to our independent and avant-garde roots,” she said. “This allows us the freedom to demonstrate our care for minority groups through the camera lens.”

Despite public response to Women’s having only ever been lukewarm, Yu believes this is set to change in 2009. She anticipates making record profits and plans on investing these in the festival’s development as a cultural event with broader appeal.

“The current economic downturn presented us with the opportunity to take a more commercial approach to staging the event by employing creative marketing strategies and sensitive cultural imagery,” Yu said.

Breaking with the stereotypical image of feminists as “butch” women who see everything in life as a patriarchal plot against the promotion of gender equality, this year’s festival has gone positively glam, enlisting the youthful talents of actress Guey Lun-mei.

In keeping with the theme of the event: “Women Move On, No Border, No Nation,” Guey appeared at the launch of Women’s online ticketing service last month and spoke of her personal travel experiences. As expected, the actress’s involvement helped thrust the festival into the full glare of the local media spotlight.

A shift away from heavy-going films toward lighter, more trend-conscious offerings has also succeeded in generating headlines for Women’s. Two such movies are “Hopscotch,” featuring the debut performance of “Totem Band” frontman and 2008 Golden Horse Best New Performer winner Suming Chiang, and “The Light in Time,” starring chanteuse Wan Fang.

To capitalize on this marketing momentum and further expand Women’s potential audience, organizers forged a strong online presence this year, registering with several of Taiwan’s leading social networking sites. Facebook, YouTube and Plurk members are now all regularly kept abreast of the latest festival developments.

Adonis Chang, an account director with Taipei-based Era Ogilvy Public Relations Co. Ltd., applauds Women’s Internet marketing initiatives but suggests they could be undermined by a lack of “spice.”

“The festival’s social networking presence needs a shot in the arm,” he said Oct. 13. “Instead of presenting information already available on the main Web site, they could focus on ‘hot’ issues linked to the films. This would heighten interest in the event and put more bums on seats.”

Chang notes that organizers’ viral marketing efforts are well supported by plans for a premium products tie-up through offering free samples at the festival. “Women’s has allied itself with culture-themed businesses such as Greece-based Apivita Natural Products and Danish brewer Carlsberg,” he said. “This will help reposition the event in the eyes of festivalgoers as a top-flight cultural attraction.”

Similarly, another strategy that organizers believe will increase the scope and diversity of their audiences this year is a radio advertising campaign. Broadcast by International Community Radio Taipei, the ads invite English-speaking residents to watch films that relate to their own experiences.

Organizers hope that some of the media fanfare surrounding Women’s will spill over and highlight the development of female Taiwanese filmmakers. “It is difficult for auteurs to break into the mainstream,” Yu said. “This event offers a unique stage on which they can showcase their creative wares.”

Encouraging local females to shoot films of their own was one of the festival’s founding missions, Yu said. “By introducing such movies through the ‘New Estrogen Currents from Taiwan Cinema’ program, we are helping cultivate this powerful medium at a grassroots level.”

Yu explained that the decision to open and close this year’s event with local offerings produced under the auspices of the program represents a major vote of confidence in the island’s women directors and their works.

With 57 domestic and international films set to screen at the festival, Yu is confident that there is something to tickle everyone’s viewing fancy. “Watching this year’s selection of movies is akin to opening a beautifully wrapped candy and savoring the bittersweet taste as it melts in your mouth.”

For more information on the Women Make Waves Film Festival, visit www.wmw.com.tw. (JSM)

Write to Tien-ying Hsu at: tyhsu@mail.gio.gov.tw

 

Captured:Taiwan Today

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