Festivault brings a world of films to remote screens

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New technology
aims to offer
thousands of
films that might
otherwise disappear
after screening at
regional festivals

Chicago film entrepreneurs Saj Adibs and Hamzah Jamjoom are bringing film festivals to viewers around the world through a new web application called Festivault.

Festivault allows users to screen select film festival programs on individual laptops, tablets, and TV screens at the same time that the festival runs, plus an additional few days. By letting people watch curated selections wherever and whenever they desire, the interface also offers a huge potential audience for filmmakers.

 
FESTIVAULT

 

Adibs and Jamjoom, who came up with the concept while on production in Cleveland, mined their personal and professional experiences to develop the process.

“We were on a shoot and at night we were throwing around ideas for things that we are passionate about,” recalls Jamjoom. “The more we talked about it, the more we realized that it stands for what we stand for.”

Jamjoom is the cofounder of the Chicago production company Digital Hydra. Adibs is a director at New Slate Films, another Windy City-based full service shop. In the process of earning dozens of indie and TV credits, they have both have experienced the need for a service like Festivault.

“We thought that if we had a platform just for a limited time, your film could get exposure and create buzz during the festival period and hopefully find distribution when it’s hot,” explains Adibs.
 

Timing is everything
Adibs’ documentary, Louder Than Words, created a huge buzz while winning the Audience Award at the Wisconsin Film Festival 2016. The film about the controversy of cochlear implants, which enable hearing, screened to roughly 300 people during the event.

“The premiere was sold out. People were asking about it. There was a lot of hype,” he recalls. “Then it kind of waned.”

Hamzah Jamjoom and Saj Adibs
Hamzah Jamjoom and Saj Adibs

Adibs was saddled with the task of generating further outreach. He gained distribution through Cow Lamp Films roughly two years later; but that was largely due to the tenacity of the company’s program director, Josh Da Sylva.

Festivault collapses even greater distances for a significant portion of Jamjoom’s work, which often boasts a huge Middle Eastern audience.

His 2012 thriller, Factory of Lies, involves a pawnbroker, a grandson, and “a slew of ominous customers” on the hottest day of the year. Based on a story that “spanned from the sands of Saudi Arabia to the streets of Chicago,” the film attracted global interest. But the old-fashioned way of doing things complicated Jamjoom’s efforts to capitalize on the moment.

Factory of Lies screened at festivals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” he explains. “Three potential investors called afterwards and said they didn’t see it, and I had no way to send it to them.”

By extending the duration and accessibility of film festivals, Adibs and Jamjoom are confident that Festivault will increase the filmmakers’ opportunities to sign distribution deals as well.

 
Research and development

Adibs and Jamjoom spent months perfecting Festivault’s system, which stores digital film files in secure, encrypted Amazon servers on the back-end and offers an easy-to-navigate interface on the front. After running through a simulated event, they launched it during the 2018 Chicago Underground Film Festival.

Operating on a “platform (that) runs smoother than Vimeo,” the Festivault rollout was a “complete validation to the idea,” according to Jamjoom. Filmmakers recognized Festivault as a physical extension of the festival. Viewers enjoyed the event through their iPads.

“The craziest part of the numbers was how people binge watched,” adds Adibs. “They would buy a ticket and be on there for like three hours.”

 
Changing the future
Festivault’s immediate success fuels the founders’ long-range ambition to reshape the independent film industry. By seamlessly offering thousands of films that might otherwise disappear after screening at a regional festival, they hope to exponentially widen the global cinemascape.

“We have experts who are identifying the best of the best and professionals whose job is to create professional programs,” explains Jamjoom. “Every month, every day, viewers get something new to watch, and you’re not going to skip it because it might not be there tomorrow.”

But that’s a ways off. First, they intend to put the final touches on mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Festivault’s current lineup includes the 2018 Chicago 48 Hour Horror Film Festival and the November Midwest Independent Film Festival. For about five dollars, both are viewable through the end of the week. For more information, click here.

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