Case Study:  AFI Fest – How to Play Well with Others (Or:  What to Do When a Sprawling Legacy System Can’t Handle a Paper-Driven Process That’s Eating Up Everyone’s Time)

When we first met with AFI Fest in 2005, the festival was managing its data with a sprawling, awkward legacy system that had little rhyme or reason to its design.  Although employees found a way to work with its cumbersome interface, it was hobbling their ability to keep pace with the festival’s increasing prestige.  Every year more and more submissions poured into the programming office and every year an army of screeners scribbled feedback on paper forms that had to be re-entered at HQ.

In addition, the submissions themselves came in different configurations:  some were on tape; others on DVD; some NTSC, some PAL, some Region 1, some unencoded.  Some screeners could watch any format; others were limited in their access to different platforms.  And then there were category considerations:  some people covered shorts, others features, others only narrative films, still others documentaries or animation.  One screener preferred European submissions; another liked Spanish-language; a third was an expert on Asian cinema.

How to keep track of all these permutations and cut down on unnecessary data-entry?  Especially when the festival was wedded to a legacy system it couldn’t afford to replace?

There’s always a way.  Recognizing that the programming department needed to maintain momentum in advance of the upcoming festival, Evolution Workshop designed a module for tracking screeners that integrated with the existing system.  Taking advantage of information that was already online – time, country, language, format, location, etc. – we matched screener preferences with film profiles to automatically compile weekly assignments.  These were then emailed to screeners as a digital form that could be filled out at their leisure and sent back to AFI to be imported into the system automatically.

No more paperwork for employees or screeners; hundreds of man-hours saved in data-entry; all the information posted online for access by the programming department.  Everyone was happy.  Festival Director Christian Gaines’ response to the project?  “You had me at FileMaker Pro.”  Sample screenshot below.

fig. 16: image of the Screeners layout in a database for AFI Fest