During the COVID-19 pandemic, create engaging, immersive virtual experiences that celebrate the film festival’s 50th anniversary and rival its world-renowned, in-person event
Leveraging Platform.sh capabilities, simultaneously build an API and apps and rebuild the festival’s website—delivering fresh, personalized attendee experiences and driving ticket sales
From the glamour of the red carpet at Cannes to the rugged mountain beauty of Sundance, premier film festivals shine a spotlight on the best and brightest in cinema. The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has been and remains widely recognized as a member of this marquee group.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, like a multitude of organizations, IFFR realized its 2021 event would need to be approached quite differently than any other before it.
With the challenge of creating engaging, immersive virtual experiences that rivaled its in-person festival, the foundation turned to the award-winning team at digital agency Burst, a member of the Intracto Group. With clients like Mentos, Chupa Chups, Davidoff, Knauf, and Pfizer, the Burst team applies its creative spirit and innovation to “make exceptional things happen for each and every client.”
In its 50th year, IFFR champions the artistry of both emerging and established independent filmmakers, bringing their films to a wide audience. Historically, the festival has welcomed up to 340,000 in-person participants and more than 2,900 global film professionals each year to view 570 feature, mid-length, and short films from more than 90 countries; a high-quality lineup of exhibitions, performances, and master classes also share center stage.
The preparation for IFFR’s digital transformation actually began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Five years ago—during the festival’s 2015 ticketing season—peak traffic volumes caused the foundation’s site to crash. That’s when IFFR engaged the Burst team.
First, Burst CTO Jeroen van den Berg and his team tackled the foundation’s server shortcomings, which had impacted its credibility, reputation, and revenue. “To support the 2016 festival, we began with just a Drupal 7 website,” explains van den Berg. “There were integrations with the provider responsible for IFFR’s ticketing and user accounts and with the festival management system for the film information, program, volunteers, and the like. Ticketing went smoothly that first year, giving us the trust and confidence to build further on this foundation in the years that followed.”
“A little more than a year ago, we began to think about the very rich database of films the festival has access to, much like IMDb (Internet Movie Database),” van den Berg shares. “The database is not only a repository of information about the movies themselves, but about actors, directors, production crew, and more.”
Recognizing the Drupal 7-based website had run its course, the Burst team hypothesized about the next step for IFFR and the future of the platform. “What opportunities would emerge if we moved to an architecture where we’d first develop an API to open a wealth of information from all the backend systems to the world, then build a variety of applications on top to consume it?” recalls van den Berg. “After discussions with IFFR, we collectively decided to move forward with this approach to propel the foundation and festival forward.”
Platform.sh gave the Burst team the ability to work on the IFFR API, rebuild the IFFR website on Drupal 8, and have different teams develop new apps for the festival simultaneously—without having to worry about infrastructure or process.
"The tooling Platform.sh provides makes it easy for us to spin up new environments, working with multiple developers. At one point in 2020, we even ran Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 side-by-side before we were 100% finished with the new site build and the migration of its content. This would have been challenging without a partner like Platform.sh."