Four days into its 16-day run, audiences for the 2020 Screenwave International Film Festival had eclipsed the previous attendance record of 6840 attendees set in 2019.
This year, SWIFF brought over 100 feature film screenings to the Coffs Coast region and pulled more than 9000 festival goers into cinemas - an increase of over 35 per cent.
Festival co-directors, husband and wife team Dave Horsley and Kate Howat, attribute the rise in attendance to the demand for something outside of the normal cinema experience, expanded marketing campaigns, and new travelling audiences converging on the Coffs Coast for the film festival.
"The community really embraced the festival experience, booking in tickets and passes early to secure a seat and bringing along friends and family to share in the festivities. It's wonderful to see everyone really get into the spirit of SWIFF", said Kate.
The festival attracted audiences from all over Australia, generating over $1.1m for the local tourism economy and filtering down to accommodation providers, cafes, pubs and retail operators.
The Nextwave Youth Film Awards received record attendance too, filling up the auditorium at C.ex Coffs.
Five of the finalists were from Bellingen Shire: Anna Young ('Guilt'); Anellesy Sibanda ('Everyone has a Story' and Ella Greenwood ('Little Ghost') in the 14-17 years category; and veteran filmmakers Tallulah Remond-Stephen ('Sad My Self') and Blaise Borrer ('The Adventures of Aspie Boy!') in the 18-25 years slot.
The overall Best Film winner was Blaise Borrer from Bellingen, with Best School awarded to Dorrigo High and runner-up awarded to Macksville High. Over $40,000 in film equipment and filmmaking development opportunities were awarded to young filmmakers again this year by the festival.
Co-directors Dave and Kate are thrilled with the result.
"People stepped outside of their comfort zone and tried something new when it came to the diverse array of films on offer," said Dave. "So many unique moments happened across the 16 days of this year's festival. We can't wait to do it all again in January 2021."