Today, people refer to an individual who selects and schedules films for a festival as a movie programmer or a film curator. Both of these words are equally familiar, and they mean the same job. However, there is a minor difference in their lexical meaning. The word ‘curator’ is more common when one refers to a worker of a museum or an exhibition; whereas ‘programmer’ may be associated with something strictly technical. Eventually, it is a question of personal preferences to choose how to call a specialist who creates a program of a film festival.
The work of a film curator is a multifaceted activity which intersects with art as well as with business. Certainly, a movie programmer must have a sophisticated artistic taste to pick movies for his entity. They are responsible for making a festival attractive for the audience; therefore, they should make smart choices. This person should be a savvy watcher and know how to analyze advantages and flows of a film. Knowledge of the history of culture is a must for a curator. These skills allow them to make strong artistic choices. Film festivals are also business entities as well; therefore, a film programmer also must be a good manager. It is vital to make a festival profitable. Overall, a curator should embody two different qualities and be able to make compromises between art and business.
In 1895, the first public film screening took place. The profession of film curator started then, and it has undergone several significant changes since that time. First international movie festivals emerged in the 1930s, and then programmers’ work was different from modern practice. Up to the end of the 1960s, their duty was to pitch excellent works from each participating country. While the whole industry was evolving, the job of a curator also gained new aspects. In the 1970s and 1980s, programmers were focusing on selecting original and innovative movies which represented new trends. Since then, film festivals have become a self-referential cultural phenomenon with its particular traditions. Public is aware of what kind of experience it will get. The particular genre of festival films has emerged, and curators struggle more than ever to filter all emerging works.
Nowadays, a film curator has a vast range of duties which include programming, budgeting, staff supervision, and maintaining relationships with other actors of the industry. To build a program, they need to see as many new movies as they can and find filmmakers to cooperate. To do so, they have to visit a vast amount of events and other festivals. Then, they select a list of films and choose a specific screening order. Film curators also are responsible for making a festival profitable. They have to create an event which will attract business partners, press, and the paying visitors. It requires an effective financial planning and maintaining trustful relationships with filmmakers, producers, and critics. Another important aspect is cooperation with sponsors and marketers. Film curators also participate in planning events and activities for the festival. Overall, these specialists have to handle a major pressure from every party which takes part in this business.
Nowadays, the film industry produces an even larger amount of movies. Every day, filmmakers present their works. On the one hand, it ensures that curators always are supplied with films to select, and they get more choice options. On the other hand, programming has become more complicated. Programmers depend on their relationships with directors, producers, agents, distributors, studios, and media companies. Their work is to filter what they are offered, and curators become mediators between the industry and the public.