Following on in our ‘The Ethical Marketing Interviews....’ series, Episode 4 is with Shawn Stratton, Co-Founder of The International Vegan Film Festival.
The International Vegan Film Festival (formerly the Ottawa International Vegan Film Festival) is a trailblazing event dedicated to celebrating the vegan ideal: a healthier, compassionate, environmentally friendly lifestyle that can be achieved through the consumption of plants and animal-free alternatives.
Here Shawn shares his journey and the accomplishments made along the way.
If you would like to watch the FULL video interview. Click Here.
Tell Us About The International Vegan Film Festival
It’s the world’s first vegan film festival and has been going for 2 years. We are just entering our 3rd year now and it all started with an idea. I go to a few film festivals regularly and enjoy them and then I became vegan 4-5 years ago and started to get more passionate about it, I wanted to see how I could get involved more with the plant-based community. I wanted to see how I could utilitise my skills, interest and experience to benefit the community. I thought about various things like VegFest, but at the time I didn’t have the time for that as it is quite involved. So, I thought a film festival could be within my realm and went looking for a film festival that had been operating so that I could bring a screening of it to Ottawa, but during my research, I didn’t find any. I Googled and Googled and couldn’t find any vegan film festivals in the world so thought that maybe its my turn to create it.
I have no film background or event management. I’ve organised some triathlons but nothing like a film festival, but I just went for it. I went for the minimal viable product for the first year. I really wanted to focus on the execution and not just let this be another idea.
The first year we had 29 films submitted from 8 countries around the world. We selected our winners from 4 categories:- Environmental protection, health & nutrition, animal awareness and lifestyle. We held it here in Ottawa and had 6 different screenings around the world.
This year has been even bigger with 40 films from 13 different countries and we are booking more and more hosts for the world tour.
What Kind Of Films Are Submitted?
We get quite a range from documentaries, music videos, comedies, horror. We have some feature length films that are $1Million dollar budget to student films that are 5 minutes, commercials and even public service announcements.
A few of us watch them all and then we whittle it down by approximately half and then send them to our independent judging committee. I don’t sit on the panel of judges but I do chair the meetings when we are talking about the finalists where our 3 independent judges come out with the winners from the nominees.
Why Is It Important To You To Get So Involved In The Plant-Based Community?
I saw what it did for me and my family and as I learned more and more about the positive benefits it had on the environment and the animals, it just seemed like a no-brainer once you do the research and find out about it.
So many people choose a vegan lifestyle after watching a documentary or a film that really touches them. I got thinking that there is probably on 1% of vegan themed films that make Netflix or hit the mainstream and there has to be thousands of quality films that are being made each year that aren’t getting seen. I really wanted to give these filmmakers a place to highlight the quality of their amazing films and really get their messages out.
At the same time, every film affects you in a different way. It was a different film that convinced me to go vegan than my wife, so the more films we can get out there, the more that are going to connect with people.
What Has Been your Biggest Success Story So Far?
One of our biggest ones, although I can’t 100% attribute this to our festival, but the first year, the winner was the film ’73 Cows’ from the UK and it hadn’t won at any film festivals before it won ours as it was fairly new out. A few months later it won ‘Best Short Film’ at the BAFTAS out of all the short films for that year and got tremendous press. We got mentioned on the BBC news that this film that had won the BAFTA had previously won the Ottawa International Vegan Festival.
How Do The Global Screenings Work?
The main festival happens in Ottawa in October and then we offer a World Tour starting on November 1st. We work with hosts in their local communities and they purchase a licence to show the best of the best from the festival, which is a selection of short films and sections from feature films, which is about 2 hours of running time. We like to think of it as a festival in a box as provide all the films, a script for their screening, a media package for the marketing with sample press released and sponsors letters etc. They then book the venue, do the marketing and sell the tickets and retain all of the revenue.
The potential growth for the World Tour is unlimited. I would love to see it in a couple of hundred cities in the next 5-10 years.
What Marketing Has Been Successful For You?
We have a couple of different clients. The first being filmmakers to know about the festival. Second are people to attend the Ottawa Film Festival and the third would be potential World Tour hosts. For filmmakers, a lot of them find out about us though the press in the vegan media world with articles which have been prompted by press releases that we send out. As there is still not that many vegan businesses out there at the moment, so when its new and exciting, it makes it much easier to get some media coverage, especially within the vegan communities.
We then got involved with a great vegan PR firm, based in L.A. called Scout 22 who work with ethical businesses and they have been very supportive and they distribute press releases that I write. We send them out about 4 times a year.
For Local ticket sales, we primarily used social media with a bit of Facebook advertising. We also connected with influencers and asked them to post.
The world tour has been partly through the network. People knew what was going on and recommended people to host. Then in the last month I’ve been sending emails to a database of 200 VegFests around the world that I created with the feeling that if they are already organising vegan friendly events, they may be interested in organising another. Also emails to people that have hosted vegan films in the past. Had some great interest out of that approach.
One thing I have learned is to never be afraid to ask. If something isn’t a fit for one person, ask if they know anyone else who would be interested. We gained two hosts only today by talking to a person that it turned out not to be suitable for them, but we asked if they knew anyone and they put me in touch with two other people who, after talking to them, are ready to host.
What ONE Marketing Tip Would You Give To A New Eco Start-Up?
Remember that sales happen one at a time. Focus on the next sale and when you have it, the next and keep going.
If you want to find out more about The International Vegan Film Festival, or hosting a screening on the World Tour then get in touch.
If you have an ethical business and would be interested in sharing your story, get in touch with Suzii at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime. if you have found this article helpful, please share and tweet …..after all caring is sharing.
This is Suzii, signing out for now. Have a great day everyone!