“People still need culture”: Couched Film Festival is bringing the cinema experience to you

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“People still need culture”: Couched Film Festival is bringing the cinema experience to you

'1000 Kings' by Bidzina Kanchavli
Words by Fergus Neal

We spoke to Jack Sargeant, the Program Director behind Revelation Film Festival and Couched, about the hidden joys of an online film festival.

With the film community taking a big hit this year, those in the industry are exploring dynamic ways to ensure film remains accessible throughout this transitional period.

Part of the fun of attending a film festival is the opportunity to see a plethora of films and then discuss them with like-minded film buffs. Revelation Film Festival’s Jack Sargeant is spearheading an exciting new online film festival that allows for all the perks of a traditional film festival, with the added benefit of being available at the click of a button. Aptly titled Couched, the festival will feature live panels, talks, presentations, and short films.

“I’ve been programming at Revelation for thirteen years,” says Sargeant. “We were originally putting together a program to run a traditional film festival, all was going ahead as normal until COVID started. It destroyed everything for everyone. Everyone was working out what to do.

Revelation was in a really advantageous position in the sense that we already have a streaming platform called REVonDEMAND. So we decided that the best thing to do was to stream Revelation and call it Couched, because you’re all at home on your couches watching.

“It’s interesting because, obviously, we’re a film festival, and we’re about community and getting people together to watch films and talk about films. So, on the one hand, it’s terribly sad that we can’t have a physical festival. But then, on the other hand, you have to make the best of the situation and I think we’ve been able to do that with our experience.”

“Normally, of course, we screen films in Perth but because we’re streaming it means that the films we’re screening are available all around the country. So even though it’s a disadvantage to not be in a cinema, it’s allowed us to showcase people’s work to a potentially wider audience. To me, that’s a really important thing.”

It could be argued that the effect of the pandemic on the arts has meant that we need cultural events more than ever. Even at home, these festivals bring forth a sense of togetherness. When asked why festivals such as Couched are important, Sargeant replies with conviction.

“The impact of this crisis has been huge. It’s across galleries, it’s across gigs, theatre, and it’s across cinemas. So it’s had a large effect on that level. It’s just about trying to turn a disadvantage into an advantage because people still need culture, they still need what we do.

“It’s trying to find a way that you can give them that. It’s about finding a way for people to see work, to get filmmaker’s work out there. You can have online discussions happening, It’s giving that sense of community in any way we can.”

Couched will run across ten days, featuring films such as 1000 Kings, The Florist, and Frances Ferguson. The festival will also include a real-time production streamed live from actors in lockdown called IN THE SHADOW IT WAITS. The event is performed live and edited in real-time. With 61 scenes, a 58 camera setup, and actors performing live from their homes in different states across Australia, the film is made as you watch it.

“The actors are all performing from lockdown, which will be fascinating. The film tells the story of four 20-something co-workers bored with their day jobs and sick of being locked up in isolation, who play an online game and unwittingly prove the truth of an urban legend. The whole piece will be time-based and the actors will perform live for a tuned-in audience.

“There’s something like 30 feature films and 40 short films, so it’s a full-on festival. It’s what we would do in the cinema but streaming. It’s got that range and depth, we’re really proud of it.”

Couched Film Festival will take place from Thursday July 9 – Sunday July 19. For more information visit the Revelation Film Festival website