“There’s a little bit of me wondering if I’m going to get a call from the people of the website about what kind of traffic I’m generating,” festival director Keith Barclay said.
Initially held in Auckland, the festival experienced more than a five-fold increase in its viewers after moving online in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year the move online is officially permanent. The only portion of the festival that is being held in person this year is its awards ceremony on Saturday at 7.30pm, which is also being livestreamed on the Facebook page. On Saturday at 1pm, conversations with creators are livestreaming as well.
Barclay said the decision to move online aligned with the ethos of festivals that focus on web series.
“Web fests don’t particularly work on the premise of exclusivity,” he said. “Most of the people who run web fests are in it for the purpose of curating and celebrating that content and sharing it as widely as possible.”
Being part of Web Series World Cup “brings in a lot of international content” to the festival. Describing the competition as “a bit like the Rugby Sevens”, filmmakers get points for being selected as well as winning awards as the competition rolls from festival to festival through the calendar year.
Roughly 20% of the content is from New Zealand. One trend unique to New Zealand is that most of the web series “are factual based rather than fiction”. “I’ve raised this with other web fest directors and none of them have that experience,” Barclay said. “It’s good; it enables us to see a broader range of factual content than we would see at other festivals.”
Julia Parnell is nominated for best director of a factual series for Waiata Anthems and says that web fests help documentaries “pop amongst all the noise”. She was grateful to NZ Web Fest for giving documentary filmmakers a platform that enables them “engage more fully with audiences and ensure our powerful films are seen widely”.
One of the more playful fictional New Zealand offerings is Millenial Jenny, created by and starring Holly Shervey. Shervey said the series granted her and director Emmett Skilton “massive freedom and enjoyment” beyond what they tend to enjoy as actors in the industry. The 90-second “bite-sized” format of web series “allows us to be very punchy and specific with our comedy”.
Amongst the international content, Shervey recommends Arthur, which has “razor sharp editing and pace”, and True Dating Stories for its “hilarious dance between reality and fiction”.
Other selections include the anthology series Someday Stories such as Mekeni by Márianne Infante, who is better known for her role as Madonna Diaz on Shortland Street, and the hilarious 13-minute mockumentary A Peek Inside The Chch Internet Troll Agency, which imagines that the Kremlin has global branches of social media misfits spreading misinformation, one of which is based in Christchurch.
Attending the festival requires registering an account online at https://nzwebfest.co.nz/ and then using the link emailed to access streaming. The festival is not geoblocked and can be viewed until 11.59pm on Sunday, November 13th in your local time zone, whatever that may be.