As with every other major event in 2020, the film music festival in Krakow had to be postponed because of the coronavirus. I have been attending this superb festival since 2011, and this is the first time I could not go to Krakow to meet friends, listen to gorgeous music, attend interesting workshops and talk to composers. However, shortly after the news of the festival being postponed, the organizers announced an alternative, called FMF Online, a remote event using live streams on FMF’s Facebook and YouTube pages. I was still a bit sad about not being able to visit Krakow this year, but, in a way, I was looking forward to the online experience, and halfway through the festival I came to the conclusion that I wanted to write about it, because, while not being traditional, it is still a festival celebrating music in media that definitely needs some attention.
Prologue: Live from Studio
FMF Online was set to be held on the same date as the original festival was supposed to be happening, but the organizers started weeks before the official start of the festival by streaming a studio concert each Sunday evening,, as I have mentioned already in my article about Coping with the corona crisis with film music. The first concert was on the first weekend of April with a performance by Polish composer Atanas Valkov. Many more composers and artists followed his example with their own performance each Sunday, until the official start of the festival.
It was a fun and interesting experience to see what kind of performance of around half an hour each composer or artist had prepared, because each of them gave it their own touch. Some were performing in their (home) studio with a small ensemble, like Atli Örvarsson, Jeff Beal with his family, and fellow Dutchman Matthijs Kieboom with a fantastic performance of his music, recorded in the studio in Arnhem, where I have been to witness the recordings of the music for the movie Wild. Others were doing it all by themselves, like Jean-Michel Bernard and Atanas Valkov.
Polish composer Łukasz Targosz invited all musicians in the world to join him in his Let’s Play Together Orchestra and to record themselves playing a part of the piece that Targosz was supposed to perform at the festival. In his Live from Studio we could hear the end result of all these individual performances put together and get a glimpse of the personal surroundings of these musicians at the same time.
Below is an overview of all the Live from Studio performances before the festival started:
The online festival
It had already been announced that the FMF would stream concerts from previous editions on each evening of the online festival. What I did not know was that the organizers had planned even more events during the day. Most days had (almost) the same time table. At noon FMF partner RMF Classic, a Polish radio station, conducted an interview with a composer or artist that had a history with the festival. At 5 p.m. the Live from Studio series continued and at 8 p.m. we could enjoy an already recorded concert. The schedule was a little different on the last day, with Live from Studio and the concert starting a bit earlier since it was International Children’s Day and both events were meant for children.
The Q&As were held each day at noon on Facebook and YouTube, where a host from RMF Classic had a small talk with an artist or composer who was involved in a concert on the same day. It looked as if it was live, but that illusion was broken with the first English Q and A, which had subtitles in Polish. This was particularly disappointing as all the Polish interviews came without subtitles and the non-Polish-speaking viewers were left in the lurch. The talks that I could follow were quite interesting, as they allowed me to peep into the mind of the artists and to listen to their stories.
Below is an overview of all the Q&As:
Jean Michel Bernard
Sonya Belousova & Giona Ostinelli
Continuation of Live from Studio
While Live from Studio aired each Sunday before the festival started, we could enjoy one each day during the festival, with exclusive peeks into the artists’ (home) studios or living rooms. Some performances were from friends of the festival, like composer Maciej Zieliński or the excellent performance of Fimucité’s Pop Culture Band. Others were connected to the concert of that night, like several Polish artists who performed in those concerts. The Let’s Play Together Orchestra of Łukasz Targosz returned for another wonderful performance of two new pieces as well.
Below is an overview of all the Live from Studio performances during FMF Online:
Aleksander Dębicz & Szymon Nidzworski
Sonya Belousova & Giona Ostinelli
Pop Culture Band
The main events for this online festival were, of course, the recorded concerts from previous years. The buildup for these concerts was well done. They went from intimate, with only still images shown while the music was playing, to the massive concerts in the massive Tauron Arena. Some concerts had a small introduction from the festival organizers on stage, and some began with the announcement of one of the annual awards. Leszek Możdżer won the biggest one for Best Polish Soundtrack of the Year 2019 for the music to the movie Ikar. Legenda Mietka Kosza. They also introduced an audience award this year and the winner of that award was Łukasz Targosz for the music to the television series Wataha. Last but not least, they also awarded the FMF Young Talent Award again, which was won by Henrik Lindström from Sweden. The introductions themselves were done in Polish without any subtitles, but luckily for those who do not understand Polish, like me and some of my friends, festival translator Piotr Krasnowolski was in the chat of the Facebook stream to translate the sentences on the fly, for which my friends and I were very grateful.
Since I had attended all the concerts live, it was a wonderful experience to listen to all of them again and to , quite literally, relive them, especially the ones with video. The concerts with only still images were, of course, not that interesting to watch, but for me, working with two monitors, it was perfect to put work on the main screen and to have the stream open on the other one and to listen to the gorgeous music. I preferred watching the Facebook stream, as many people I know are on that network and it was a fantastic experience to celebrate film music together from the comfort of our homes.
Below is an overview of all the concerts from previous years which were streamed during FMF Online:
Cinema Chorale (2019)
Cinematic Piano: Lion – Hauschka & Dustin O’Halloran (2018)
Cinematic Piano: Jean-Michel Bernard (2017)
All Is Film Music (2017)
International Series Gala (2015)
Film Music Gala: Animations (2016)
Disney Concert: The Magic of Music (2019)
(No video available on Facebook or YouTube)
One of my favorite things about attending the festival is meeting friends from across Europe. I have had many wonderful get-togethers in different locations in Krakow after the concerts over the years. Since a physical gathering was not possible this year, we decided to have a virtual one after each concert, using the online meeting platform Jitsi Meet, resulting in fun evenings with drinks, celebrating film music and fun conversations.
Initially, I was a bit disappointed that I would not be able to go to Krakow to meet friends, listen to amazing concerts and hear some interesting conversations with artists, but as FMF Online unfolded I came to the conclusion that the web-based festival was providing all of that. Better yet, I got it from the comforts of my own house, without having to travel and taking days off from work. This was not only the case for me, but also for film music fans from all over the world. The Krakow FMF is the biggest film music festival in the world, and it got a whole lot bigger with FMF Online!
What also needs to be mentioned is what the organizers pulled off in such a short time span. Not only did they arrange the streams with concerts from previous years, they also provided a lot of new, fresh and intimate content during these hard times. This edition of the festival is not even over yet, because the organizers keep announcing new Live from Studio concerts, with a concert by John Lunn on the first Sunday after the official end of the online festival. I really hope we will be able to attend a regular festival again next year in some form, but some extra FMF Online events next to that, for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend, I certainly wouldn’t mind. They’ve shown they can achieve that perfectly well.