Brian Newman adds prestige to any film festival panel that includes him. As the former CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute, he's about as knowledgeable and connected as anyone in the indie film world.
An appearance by Brian Newman at your festival (seated behind a microphone alongside other luminaries) is one sure sign that your festival matters.
So I expect it will come as a shock to many readers of this blog (and film festival programmers?) that Brian recently wrote a provocative blogpost saying that all film festival panels are worthless and it’s time to kill them... all of them.
Frankly, I kinda see his point.
Yes, the panel format is a great photo-op for a festival. It's proof that your festival is an important cultural and educational resource (handy for next year's grant application). Look at all the famous (middle-aged white?) guys we brought to town.
But how much insight and honesty is generated by these panels?
Is there another format that would allow for deeper discussion?
In the age of TED talks, where a well-rehearsed speaker delivers a pithy 18 minute live lecture that is often filmed from multiple angles in anticipation of being shared online, why don't film festivals ask experts to deliver short prepared talks on cutting-edge topics - that could show up later on that festival's website?
Alternatively, like Brian, I think one-on-one interviews (where an artist or business person talks in front of an audience with a knowledgeable interviewer) tend to contain more gems than a typical panel.
Yes, information is conveyed and some great connections are made at film festival panels (I met Brian Newman after a panel) but isn't it time to consider whether the time and resources lavished on formulaic film festival panels could be better spent?