The art of e-commerce: Q&A with the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival

The annual Human Rights Arts & Film Festival will kick off in May in Melbourne, followed by a tour to key cities around Australia. With a new online ticketing system in place and big plans for the future, we caught up with Festival Director, Ella McNeill, to find out how online platforms are helping film and art festivals take their offerings to the next level.

The Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) has been exploring human rights issues since its inception in 2007. In 2015, the annual festival will run for two weeks in Melbourne (7–21 May 2015), followed by a touring program to cities around Australia.

The festival uses a SecurePay online payments solution to facilitate ticket sales to its annual gala dinner and online donations. Festival Director Ella McNeill explains why being able to securely handle online payments is a vital component of any arts or film festival these days.

What is the HRAFF all about?

HRAFF uses the accessible methods of arts and film to engage people in pressing human rights issues. HRAFF happens each year, primarily from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and Federation Square, as well as exhibitions at various galleries in Melbourne’s CBD.

We attract high-quality artists and guest speakers from around the country and the world, and they come together to inspire and engage people within the context of human rights.

We also tour nationally, and this year we are taking the festival to six other cities – Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin and Alice Springs.

What are some of the highlights of the 2015 program?

We always have a big opening night event, which this year will see a screening of I Will Not Be Silenced – an Australian film about Charlotte Campbell-Stephen’s experience in Kenya after she was raped. It is an inspiring story, which shows how Charlotte takes on the legal system in Kenya. We are thrilled to have Charlotte and the director, Judy Rymer, joining us for the opening night. A post-film Q&A and after-party will follow the screening.

The closing night is also a big night for us. This year, we will be premiering The Beekeeper in Australia. This tells the story of a Kurdish refugee, Ibrahim Gezer, who is living in Switzerland. It is about his personal experience, and it’s a moving story that is framed by his love of beekeeping. We will have the director Mano Khalil attending and a Q&A session with him.

Within the two-week program, we have short film sessions, over 20 feature-length films and a visual arts program. This year, we will also have Breakfast Sessions, which are forums that focus on pressing human rights issues. These will take place at 10am over both weekends and will discuss topics including domestic violence and climate change.

What role does your website play in the overall festival and program?

Our website is the first point of contact for people, and we are conscious that it needs to be really accessible. On one hand, it needs to be visually appealing and creative, but on the other hand, it also needs to serve people who are looking for specific information.

We try to communicate the high quality and creative nature of the program through the website. The site is also where people sign up for our EDMs and where they find the program to see what’s on and make bookings.

Who designs and maintains your website?

We are very fortunate to have the generous support of volunteers each year, and for the past four years we have been lucky to have our web developer giving his time to the website. In addition, each year we have a volunteer designer who translates each year’s art and program to the site. The look and feel changes quite significantly each year, due to the nature of being a festival.

Why did you choose SecurePay to handle your online payments?

Our treasurers chose SecurePay as a way to accept credit card payments for festival-related activities.

Initially, we used SecurePay as a way for people to pay online for our annual gala or to allow them to make a donation. This year, we are introducing a new ticketing system, which means we can take bookings and ticket for events ourselves, without having to go through the various venues.

Using SecurePay has been super easy and we haven’t had any issues with it.

Why are you changing your festival ticketing system?

We are changing our festival ticketing provider this year to Ferve Tickets, which is a specialist in film festivals. This is an important element for any festival because of the high volumes of ticket sales. The switch means people will now be able to buy tickets directly through us and everything is under our brand, rather than through separate venues.

What do you have planned for HRAFF in the future?

We have a strong three-year vision, which includes expanding our artistic program and expanding our short-film program. In addition, the arts program may expand to include theatre and dance.

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