On Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, Sonscreen Film Festival director Julio Muñoz sat down at his computer, and clicked his way into an elegant rooftop party in a virtual world. As Muñoz scanned the scene, three friends stood chatting with a stunning view of the city lights. Two more attendees conversed at a bistro table on the veranda, and groups of visitors dotted the space: networking, mingling, and perusing a gallery of film trailers guests had made. The real-world attendees tapped away on their keyboard’s arrow keys, piloting their tiny avatars around the game-like virtual meeting space, and video chatting with visitors who wandered nearby.
The venue was the unique video conference platform Gather Town, the guests were Sonscreen alumni and other filmmaking professionals from North America and beyond,. The event was the first of its kind: a mix and mingle event designed specifically for alumni and other industry professionals. Tanya Musgrave’s podcast, The Practical Filmmaker, hosted the mixer, and Sonscreen sponsored and supported the event.
Muñoz stated that alumni and industry professionals have always been welcome at Sonscreen Film Festival. Each year, some professionals attend the festival to network, teach, or share their projects with students, but an event specifically for professionals is a new addition to Sonscreen’s 18-year history. “Sonscreen is the only film festival sponsored by the church anywhere in the world” Muñoz explained. “We realized that once students graduate from college, they have no support system like they would in school. We wanted to create a support system for them beyond the academic years.”
The November event opened with a screening at which alumni presenters showed trailers for their films. Then, after an ice-breaker activity, the schedule opened up, giving the almost two dozen guests participating time to share information for future projects, learn what their peers were working on, and connect with former classmates and new friends. Several attendees commented that they gathered valuable information during the event and hoped for more like it in the future.
After the last guest logged off, their tiny avatars vanishing from the rooftop one by one, Muñoz stayed behind to recap the program with Musgrave and me (I was an event staffer). Muñoz was already thinking ahead to next time.
“It’s started out small,” he said, “but I think it’ll grow.”
— Rachel Scribner is a film maker and writer who serves on the Sonscreen Film Festival board of directors.