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Wichita's Tallgrass Film Festival Going Virtual For 2020

Greteman Group

For the first time since it started in 2003, Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Festival is going virtual.

The nonprofit that puts on the festival says this year's event will be held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Essentially it just means that we're going to be doing a lot of the same Tallgrass events and talkbacks and everything," said programming director Nick Pope, "but it'll just be online so people can stay home and stay safe."

The festival typically draws hundreds of filmmakers from across the country and thousands of filmgoers each year. It's "sort of become just a fall staple in this town," Pope said.

He said Tallgrass "went back and forth on all kinds of options" as it watched some film festivals — including Telluride, Tribeca, Toronto and Cannes — cancel plans entirely, and others go virtual.

"But I think when we finally started seeing the cases rise here ... it really just seemed like the best bet," he said. "We didn't necessarily want to be the guinea pigs and try a live event and have things not go so well."

He says education events will be free and available to the public, but tickets will be required to watch films on a streaming service called Cinesend. Depending on distributor rules, some films will be available on demand, and others will be streamed at a designated time for audiences to watch together — kind of.

"It will still have that festival vibe," Pope said.

The event, which normally runs five days, will stretch over 10 days this year. Pope says it's taking just as much money and manpower to pull off a virtual event as it does to run the usual in-person festival, but he's hopeful the extended online format will mean more people getting to watch more movies.

“The goal has always been to get as many people into the theater as possible," he said, "and this year the goal is to get as many eyes in front of screens as we can."

The 2020 virtual Tallgrass Film Festival is from Oct. 16 to Oct. 25.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.