It's not every media announcement event that begins with a message for your personal safety. Thankfully, the life preservers demonstrated at the start of the Atlantic Film Festival's unveiling of its new identity aboard Halifax's familiar Harbour Hopper were not required.
But there was a "fasten your seatbelts" level of anticipation on Wednesday morning, once the amphibious vehicle settled into the water of Halifax Harbour. As it got up to speed around Casino Nova Scotia, the festival's executive director Wayne Carter revealed that the 37-year-old East Coast film and television showcase and conference now has a new name befitting its Maritimes setting, and bringing all of its programs and events under the singular banner of FIN.
"This is an exciting milestone in the evolution of the Atlantic Film Festival, as we plot our course for changing audiences, changing expectations and enhanced experiences," said Carter as the Harbour Hopper cruised past familiar Halifax waterfront landmarks.
"Inspired by the closing titles of international films, and our special place on the ocean, our new name is not 'The End', but a new beginning."
Carter explained that the new name is designed to become a recognizable brand for the moviegoing public as well as members of the film and broadcast industries. So while the annual September Atlantic Film Festival now becomes FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival — with the new addition of "international" meant to represent the scope of the event — the change applies to other branches as well.
The Strategic Partners producer's conference becomes FIN Partners, Viewfinders youth film festival is now FIN Kids, the summer Outdoor Film Experience (formerly alFresco filmFesto) is now FIN Outdoor and programs designed to help filmmakers and screenwriters get to the next level will come under the banner of FIN Makers. There is also a new initiative to assist student filmmakers called FIN Campus.
Designed by Halifax's Revolve Branding & Marketing, the FIN concept was created to bring the event up to date, appeal to a broader audience and be what Revolve CEO Phil Otto described as "memorable, trademark-able and ownable."
Carter noted that making the public more aware of the festival's presence, and its role in presenting landmark films like Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea before they become household names during awards season, was a key reason for the change. Especially as theatrical film exhibition becomes more keyed to box office and blockbusters, and the opportunities for East Coast audiences to see local, national and international independent titles on the big screen become even rarer.
"The way people are watching movies is changing all the time," said Carter after the vessel was back on dry land. "Even having the word 'film' in your name, I'm not convinced that that's not dating you and loses your appeal beyond people of a particular age. Our current logo has sprocket holes and a old school film slate in it, but slates don't clap like that anymore, they're all electronic, and for most filmmakers, sprocket holes don't even exist.
"To a younger audience, that iconography doesn't even mean anything anymore. ... And I think all film festivals realize that we're at a bit of a juncture here, times are changing."
While this summer's outdoor screenings of Canadian comedies in the Public Gardens kicks off June 30 with Bob & Doug McKenzie in Strange Brew, the main event takes place Sept. 14 to 21, when FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival kicks off at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium with a special Canada 150: Movie Nights Across Canada screening of a title that will be announced in July.
The remainder of the program for this fall will be announced on Aug. 16, although Carter mentioned that the recently renovated Lord Nelson Hotel will continue to be the festival's home base, and following the Rebecca Cohn opener, it will take over every screen in Cineplex Theatres' Park Lane Cinemas from Sept. 15 to 21.
"We'll FIN-icize it!" he exclaimed with a grin, as the Harbour Hopper rounded of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street, in the heart of the neighbourhood that will become film fest central in September.