Flow Communications

The competition encourages filmmakers to “tell a story about children overcoming adversity or the adults who seek justice on their behalf”. After an initial application judging round, the 10 selected filmmakers were each given R10 000 to shoot a short documentary. The films are currently being broadcast continent-wide on eight of Discovery’s channels.

As the Jozi Film Festival’s digital partner, Flow was tasked with developing the voting platform that is being used for this year’s event. Viewers can view and vote for their favourite film by visiting www.jozifilmfestival.co.za – voting is via either SMS or phone (+27 (0)60 070 2653) and closes on 10 December 2020. The filmmaker with the most votes will walk away with a Canon camera worth approximately R50 000.

“For the solution we chose not to use an SMS shortcode as it is more expensive than using standard SMS or mobile phone, and most of the proceeds go to the carrier. Rather, we used a standard South African phone number so that voters may vote using their standard airtime or SMS allocations on their contract or prepaid phone,” says Flow’s head of digital, Richard Frank.

How do you ensure nobody votes twice? “Each vote is logged and has a form of ‘caller line identity’ that ensures that a single phone number can only vote once,” says Frank.

“This way, your phone number is your ticket to vote, and once used you cannot use it again.“We also have several other audit controls in place,” he adds.

The phone service initially used Amazon Polly generated AI text-to-speech to read out the instructions to voters. “We eventually switched to a 100% human voiceover as the AI voice, while impressive, couldn’t capture South African pronunciations,” says Frank. “The voice you hear on the line is from our very own head of training, Thrishni Subramoney, who is a former radio broadcaster.”

The Jozi Film Festival has experienced a year of innovation. Earlier this year it launched its very first virtual film festival, as the Covid-19 pandemic meant physical screenings were limited.

“Viewers only had to pay $7 to get access to over 30 selected films over the screening weekend without leaving the couch,” says Frank. “We believe the future of film festivals is a hybrid mix of virtual and physical screening experiences.”

The platform was backed by Vimeo’s OTT services, which gave the film festival access to a world-class video distribution network.

“While we didn’t anticipate building our very own Netflix this year, necessity is the mother of all invention,” says Frank. “Vimeo were great partners and gave us the technical guidance required to get the platform live and in front of audiences in a very short space of time.”

Festival founder Lisa Henry couldn’t be more chuffed with results. “Working with Flow has been so easy and enjoyable – each and every Flowstar I’ve dealt with has been wonderful,” she says.

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