In Northern Ireland, a scheme called Collective was initiated, designed to “showcase the collective nature of our network, and the collective power of exhibition, distribution and production working together”.
At Film Hub NI, the organisation has dipped its toes into the world of touring films on a case by case basis over the past few years. The inspiration was a beloved local film that didn’t get a wide theatrical release (Bad Day For The Cut), and also as the Film Hub team saw an amazing Japanese LGBT documentary that made them “cry ugly tears” at Galway Film Fleadh (Of Love and Law).
The success of both these tours, and the commitment from their network to engage with them, lead Film Hub NI to think about formalising film tours (primarily in non-theatrical venues, shortly after theatrical release) as part of their Hub core strategy to get fantastic independent films in front of local audiences, while supporting NI/Irish/UK filmmakers.
Out of this, Collective was borne. Named to showcase the collective nature of our network, and the collective power of exhibition, distribution and production working together, Collective has had a very successful first year.
While there is a strong network of touring networks throughout the rest of the UK such as Movieola, Creative Arts East, Off Y Grid and others, efforts to establish a sustainable network in NI had been inconsistent to date.
Key objectives of the touring scheme:
- Getting local independent film in front of audiences through the thriving community cinema network that has a proven record of attracting good audiences for local content.
- Bridging the gap between audiences, exhibitors and the production sector, and highlighting the opportunity for distributors to work with a collective of willing venues.
- An opportunity for Film Hub NI to develop strong relationships with distributors and the production sector.
The operational plan (in a nutshell) was to
- Select a film and negotiate with distributors
- Organise a tour of regional non-theatrical venues/community cinemas and
- Manage centralised marketing while helping out with the individual event marketing too.
Collective launched in April 2019, with a tour of The Dig (Out of Orbit productions) taking place on various dates between April and June. This involved working with Element Pictures and was a great learning curve for the team to base the following tours on.
After lots of chat and a great day out meeting the team from Element in Dublin, Film Hub NI tied down dates, venues, signed off assets and coordinated talent for each screening. The producer, directors and writer all appeared at various screenings, which added to the tour and something that is hoped will continue on some level for all tours where possible.
Sara Gunn-Smith, Marketing and Audiences Officer at Film Hub NI, said of the scheme, “While Collective is only one of our core projects and we tried not to overlap with tours (so each film gets its deserved attention…and for our small team’s workload), we did tour two fantastic Wildcard Distribution titles (Extra Ordinary, a comedy-horror & Gaza, a documentary) during October-December. The reasoning behind this decision was because the films were so different that we felt we could give each title its own marketing strategy without diluting the other.
“We were unable to secure talent at these screenings so we thought about how we could still provide that added experience at screenings in the future where it was not possible to have cast or crew there in person.
“Luckily, for our last film of 19/20 – Bump Along The Way, we worked with Bronagh Gallagher’s agent to get a fantastic video introduction message from the star herself, for the venues to play. We also managed to secure the producer to attend and take part in several Q & As with the Hub team hosting. This final tour was the biggest in terms of tour dates and audience size and it really felt that the learning we had during the previous 3 tours came together to provide brilliant screenings for the community cinema, with bigger than usual audiences, and for the network to really work together to promote each other screenings and support each other. It genuinely was a wonderful experience for the communities, audiences and filmmakers.”
The plan was for Collective to continue for at least the next two years but COVID-19 has put paid to that. The plan for resuming Collective in 20/21, is the findings of an evaluation recently commissioned from Eximo Marketing to look at the stats and stories of the project, and to make Collective even better.
Touring these four titles (The Dig, Gaza, Extra Ordinary and A Bump Along The Way) confirms that the modest investment in Collective has paid significant dividends in terms of audience numbers, building relationships with distributors and filmmakers, and raising the profile of selected Northern Irish and Irish titles.
- 58 – average attendance per screening (34 screenings in total)
- 42% of attendees had never been to an event run by that organisation previously.
- 45% of those who had attended previously had not been for more than 6 months.
- 99% of those asked said they would attend again
- Assuming an average cost per ticket of £4, the project generated revenue of £7,724 at box office, which was retained by the cinemas
- GVA (gross added value) for the whole project is estimates that the overall financial impact of Collective was £36,986.
Recommendations in the report suggested that Film Hub NI focus on diversifying the audience further, work on scheduling so programmers have a longer lead-in time and offer more assistance with tech requirements, and making the experience as easy (and enjoyable) for everyone as possible.
“During these times, where our screens are dark and the Collective experience of watching quality independent film together seems far away, it is important for us all to remember that there is huge appetite for these types of events and that they bring great benefits for all involved,” noted Sara. “We will work closely with distributors, exhibitors and filmmakers to make sure that Collective will return (when safe to do so) even more determined to bring great films to more people across Northern Ireland.”
Queen’s Film Theatre, Newcastle Community Cinema, Rostrevor Community Cinema, Dungannon Film Club, The Braid Film Club, Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Roe Valley Arts Centre, Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portrush Film Theatre, Fermanagh Film Club, Ormeau Community Cinema, Subterranean Community Cinema and The Picturehouse, Ballyclare.
If you’d like to see a copy of the full Collective report or have any questions, please contact Sara – firstname.lastname@example.org