What do you get when you cross silent film and Instagram? You get the Toronto Silent Film Festival and an innovative campaign dreamed up by the Cossette agency. For two years, we’ve been singing the praises of the Toronto Silent Film Festival and their innovative uses of social media, particularly Instagram. With social film flipbooks and Instagram-housed timelines, they’re bringing silent film to a new media frontier. With all this positive buzz, it made me wonder what kind of uptick in interest TSFF has seen. I spoke with Festival Director Shirley Hughes to get her perspective and see what results these initiatives have brought.
Although the campaigns were created, in part, to promote the festival and push ticket sales, Hughes admits that it’s hard to quantify whether an increase in sales is a result of the initiatives. “Our audience numbers have been rising a bit every year even before the two campaigns. Audience demographics have indicated a rise in younger audience members too, but this is a phenomenon that is worldwide with silent films.”
What these campaigns have done, Hughes believes, is build on the re-emergence of silent film. “What I think these campaigns have done is to build upon the increased awareness of silent film since ‘The Artist’ and ‘Hugo.’ And in many ways, a happy coincidence has occurred between early film, which was blazing trails with new technology as a means of telling stories, and the latest technology which is attempting to tell stories through another type of medium. Both were ‘new’ at their respective times; both tested and altered that technology to achieve what they wanted.” As younger audiences become more familiar with the art form, too, Hughes notes that these campaigns can easily reach them. “This campaign (the Chaplin Instagram Timeline) plays into the growing trend of younger more media savvy attendees so that is excellent.”
In many ways, these campaigns represent the best of new and old technology, new and old media, and help to continue raising audiences’ awareness of great works of art, and that’s key. “I believe strongly in introducing new audiences to this art form and the use of newer technology to do that is an excellent match. If it makes people want to experience the real thing, that’s great,” Hughes says.