The Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) was known in the community for having some new, edgy late-night films. Despite this fact, the festival was never able to develop a Midnight Madness culture that other film festivals were able to create. The Executive Director thought it was time for a change and tasked me with making Midnight Madness something that couldn’t be missed.
Midnight Madness at TIFF is a model of what I was shooting for with our revamp. Midnight Madness needed to signify a cultural shift from the rest of the festival, where during the day serious films and a sense of decorum was expected, to an evening where rowdiness and a participatory environment was welcomed. What better way to signal the shift we wanted than programming one of the most participatory films there is – Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM.
We made a concerted effort to signal to those coming to the festival that it wasn’t your average film. That year, the 2015 film ROOM with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay was screening at film festivals. We made a deliberate effort to tell people at our press conference that we meant the Tommy Wiseau film, and not the Lenny Abrahamson film. This was such a departure from our typical lineup that programming it caused a good deal of media coverage in itself, apart from the film festival.
While waiting in line, our patrons heard a mix of Midnight Madness by The Chemical Brothers to energize and pump them up. The WIFF Experience Team went throughout the line and did mock interviews pretending it was a red carpet while also handing out a starter kit with instructions on how to participate with the film. We even made sure to hold the line before letting them into the theatre and before introducing the film to build up a bit of tension and rowdiness. Once they were let in, the Experience Team followed in with beach balls that the audience immediately started throwing from one person to another. If there was one thing we accomplished, it was definitely setting the environment.
It payed off. We had a jam packed theatre of 200+ people per screening that left thousands of plastic spoons and were begging us to make it a yearly, monthly, and weekly event.