How to Host a Virtual Screening & Conversation During COVID-19: Webinar & Resources

Last Monday, Picture Motion joined Sarah Mosses from Together Films and Zev Raben from Ramo Law in a webinar to discuss virtual options for collective viewing, dialogue, and action. In response to the need for digital screening alternatives, the team at Picture Motion put together a research grid of digital platforms for our sector on available options. 

Check out the deck that was presented at the webinar here.

Together Films will continue to host online meetups for film industry professionals (Festivals, Theatres, Sales Agents, Filmmakers & Impact Producers) on Mondays at 2 pm ET.  To join or get more info, click here.

In response to the demand for a way to bring screening events online, we have created our own virtual theater for PicMo clients, which includes chat and livestream panel capabilities. If you’re interested in learning more, email

Key questions from the webinar:

Q: What platforms might work best to have both a private online screening followed by a livestream Q&A? So far we are doing these on different platforms but would love to consolidate!

A: Hard to consolidate, but consider hybrids of the Vimeo stack. Or combining one streaming with one video conferencing.

Q: How we can make our films and campaigns stay relevant when they aren’t directly related to the virus and people’s urge to survive and thrive during the pandemic? 

A: Consider how much community spirit has been shown already and try to channel the ‘downtime’ people will have at home with meaningful online actions over the coming weeks. If you’re an issue film, focus directly on the audiences that are actively working in that issue as they still care. If you’re more entertainment, play up the “downtime” aspect.

Q: We do still need to make money with our content or we will not be able to maintain our lives and pay rent. It’s a huge dilemma – how is it possible to fundraise in the coming months without being an asshole?

A: Great question! Typical film financiers will be running on annual budgets and so there is no need to stop writing grant applications. We would recommend pausing on high-value crowdfunding campaigns for the moment until cash flow returns to more stable levels for your audience. Fundraising through high net worth individuals will be tough as they may allocate their funds to COVID related campaigns. Tactfully make the case that the issue or the arts are also taking a COVID hit, and you’ll still be working on this issue on the other side, and be prepared to explain why that money is needed right now and how it could be best spent (ie editing and research can be done at home, but production is not an option)

Q: With so many schools/educators at home, how can we as a community offer opportunities for learning at home and for professional development using film plus impact content?

A: We are hearing that educational resources might need to be adapted, so they are more suitable for the home school environment. Consider shorts and clips rather than feature viewing, and remember parents won’t necessarily be experts in the issue in your film

Q: Some festivals are suggesting one-time livestreams in place of in-person screenings. Other folks are suggesting Vimeo on-demand. How will that affect later potential online streaming opportunities at platforms such as amazon prime or Netflix? 

A: Ensure that the festival you are working with is placing some kind of time limitation/viewership cap on the audience so that you don’t get a ‘viral hit’ from a single festival. The platforms will be understanding of the issues we face. We are booking some of them to join us for future editions.

Q: What are the main things that Film Programmers (within different groups, i.e. cinemas, organizations, charities) need to be considering when planning online screenings? 

A: You will need to focus more on marketing than ever before. With the proliferation of online content, just having a strong program won’t be enough. How can you create strands? Q&As? Can you play with timings as patrons don’t need to leave the house? Do you really need repeat shows, or can you focus on getting 1000 people in one show where you don’t have walls anymore? Consolidate your marketing efforts to key, easy to understand messaging. 

Q: I’d like a temperature read on how the current supply & demand for online experiences and future demand in-person screenings is changing. Will there be a flood of films competing for limited screen real estate later in the year? Are streaming distributors hungry for new online content? 

A: There will definitely be a backlog of content looking for live screening opportunities in theatres in the fall. This will limit the number of screens available and films able to be released. You will still be able to plan extensive non-theatrical events where you have more options on the venues to work with. Streaming platforms will be in need of new content, but will still have stringent acquisition protocols so don’t assume they will take everything.

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