Case Study: FHSE Young Film Programmers’ Network

This FHSE-led initiative aims to create a network of Young Film Programmers and Groups across the region over the next four years. In year one the hub have focused on supporting venues with professional development training, resources and materials, and one-to-one advice sessions to help them establish sustainable YFP Groups.

Summary

Young Film Programmers Groups are an exciting approach to building the cinephile generation of the future. They empower young people to be part of this change – enabling them to go behind the scenes of the cinema exhibition industry, make their voices heard and research, plan and deliver their own screenings, events and festivals.

Currently, 42% of the cinema-going public are under 24 but they don’t tend to engage with a wide range of films – instead they go to see blockbusters at the local multiplex. Our aim is to harness these huge numbers of young people through Young Film Programmers’ Groups, encouraging young people to deliver screenings to their own peer groups and working in partnership with venues to break down the barriers between young audiences and cultural cinema.

Prioritising the development of a network ensures these groups do not operate in isolation and connects newly established groups with those already in existence. Supporting this network with a comprehensive and structured training offer increases the sustainability of the initiative, which is especially important when working with groups prone to a high turnover rate. This work has been delivered with partner organisations Saffron Screen and Depot, Lewes.

Project aims

  • To support the creation of 5 Young Film Programmers’ Groups across the FHSE region.
  • Involve a minimum 25 young people (16-30 year olds) in the groups - including diverse and disadvantaged young people.
  • Screen a minimum of 25 films between April 2018 – Mar 2019.
  • Attract a minimum audience of at least 750 to these screenings between April 2018 – Mar 2019.

Headlines

  • We surpassed our target number of groups, with the creation of seven new Young Film Programmers Groups who have so far delivered 23 screenings which attracted new young audiences to the venues, many as first time visitors, and achieved an average audience of 27.
  • 49 young people had the opportunity to contribute to the running of their local cinema resulting in high levels of engagement, enjoyment and most of all confidence and inspiration to ‘make things happen’ in their local community. 78% of the programmed screenings were of specialised film (e.g. British, World Cinema, Archive, etc.).
  • We have demonstrated the potential to obtain additional funding for this initiative, creating replicable case studies at the Electric Palace for their ‘Young Electrics’ group who received support from the Hastings Opportunity Fund and Hastings Council, and the Deal Music and Arts Screenings at Linden Hall Studios who received a grant from the Kent Community Fund.
  • By working with external partners, organisations and local authorities we have established groups in areas struggling with high levels of economic and social deprivation. Successfully securing and utilising funds designed to create enrichment activities for disadvantaged young people have demonstrated the potential for YFP groups to provide an access point to cultural cinema and empower those young people who may not have before felt comfortable or empowered in that space.
  • We have offered a multifaceted approach to our training offer - including bespoke in-venue training, regionally-focussed sessions for current and potential facilitators, and the creation of a high-quality resource pack – and created networking opportunities within and across the groups. The majority of young people who attended the networking event at BFI Southbank had never visited the venue before, and at the same event 20 cinema professionals were able to share practice and connect as a peer-support group. We also set up an online resource for the group to continue networking throughout the year.
  • We are starting to formulate successful ‘exit strategies’ to increase and evidence the sustainability of the groups. For example, from September 2019 the facilitation of the ‘Young Electrics’ group will pass to Sussex Coast College who will continue the initiative and screenings at the Electric as part of their ongoing enrichment programme.

Films

78% of the programmed screenings were of specialised film (e.g. British, World Cinema, Archive, etc.).

These included Persepolis (Iran / France, 2007), Loving Vincent (Poland / UK / USA / Switzerland / Netherlands, 2017), From Up on Poppy Hill (Japan, 2011), Broken (UK, 2013), Moon (UK, 2009), The Ring (Japan, 1998), Paris is Burning (US, 1990) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand, 2016).

Key partnerships

As well as forming partnerships with the venues who have now set up new YFP Groups we were delighted that existing groups in the region were so generous with their time and willing to share their experiences with those venues just starting out on their journeys. We also welcomed guest speakers from across the UK to share particular case studies of their successful work with this target audience. The building of relationships with, and the subsequent support of, local funders played a significant role in enabling two groups to begin their work - Hastings Opportunity Fund and Hastings Council to set up the Hastings Young Electrics, and the Kent Community Fund to set up the Deal Young Film Programmers at Linden Hall Studios.

Budget in brief

Film Hub South East allocated £25,000 for this year-long activity. £5000 of this was allocated for activity costs which could be awarded directly to venues to use for specific costs and remove perceived risks (e.g. covering staff costs, film licenses, etc.). Additional income was raised through local authority funding and ticket sales.

What worked

  • Successfully recruited 7 venues - gained commitment and willingness from 7 venues to take a risk on youth audience development and try out a young film programmers group in the first pilot year. This included successful start-up regional meetings and individual action plans co-created with venues, including those in areas of economic disadvantage such as Slough and Hastings.
  • Regular YFP Screenings - between September 2018-May 2019, 614 people attended 23 film screenings, programmed by the 49 new Young Film Programmers across the region. Many young audiences visited an independent/cultural cinema for the first time.
  • Quality learning experience for participants - participants committed to regular meetings across the year and gained self-confidence, life skills, film knowledge and invaluable cinema work experience that many reported as having a direct influencing on their future career aspirations. We also signposted progression opportunities which many took up, for example attending ICO screening days in Manchester and Flatpack Film Camp in Birmingham.
  • Training sessions - 39 participants. Providing initial training in regional hub venues with hosted case-studies and hands on workshops to introduce the concept and principles of the young film programmers network. Providing in-house training for venue teams to create a joined up vision and commitment to the project.
  • Networking event - 40 participants. Bringing young people and facilitators together for networking events proved extremely useful in helping venues troubleshoot and share practice and giving young people the opportunity to meet each other face to face and feel energised and inspired being in a growing community of young film programmers.
  • Resource pack - providing a flexible framework and comprehensive resource pack for facilitators that could be used as much or as little by each venue to suit their needs. In addition providing online resources, tailored schedules and case studies contributed by participating venues.
  • Webpage and Facebook group - setting up an online resource for sharing good practice and peer-to-peer troubleshooting and problem solving alongside providing platform for signposting progression and future training opportunities.

What has been difficult

  • Recruitment of young people. The initial recruitment of young people joining the young film programmers groups took much longer than expected. Reaching colleges and schools proved more time-consuming than anticipated and face-to-face recruitment and advocacy was necessary in many cases to break down the cultural barriers that were preventing young people entering the venues.
  • Timescale. We aimed for venues to run 5 events each in the first year but found this was too pressurised. Venues needed more lead-in time to recruit and induct their young programmers and then coordinate marketing and programming departments to get their first screenings off the ground. Venues needed time to brief staff and prepare the groundwork for a joined-up approach that is robust and capable of being sustained.
  • Getting large numbers of young people to attend the screenings. As expected, marketing to this age group has been challenging and the venues are still working to find the best avenues for disseminating information among student and young adult populations in their local areas. Resistance, lack of confidence and financial concerns continue to prevent this age group taking a risk on cultural cinema venues, even with student price offers.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Create a simple recruitment advert as a PowerPoint Slide that can be modified for each venue and sent to local schools/colleges for ease of signposting and helping teachers disseminate information more simply and easily.
  • Consult young programmers on calendar slots and days of the week at the start of the project as long as this doesn’t delay the first screening taking place for too long - momentum is important to keeping the young people on board but equally, finding the exam hotspots and avoiding them would increase audience attendances.
  • Gather audience survey evidence for all screenings and audience feedback to encourage a ‘club’ membership feel for the audiences attending the youth strand screenings and promote repeat visits.
  • Consider Group Ticketing Schemes to encourage young people to come along with their friends in a group and see the evening as an extension of their social life.
  • Identify and incentivise local young people and the local youth councils to promote the cinema screenings and engage with different groups that do not necessarily link up with the peer-networks of the young film programmers themselves.

Awareness / Attitudes

The project has raised awareness of film exhibition culture and work opportunities within it amongst the young people we worked with, as well as changing some of the attitudes and understanding of young audiences within the venues we worked with.

The project helped the young people imagine different lives and different futures in the film industry where they had been interested in film but had no previous knowledge or confidence in working in film exhibition. The project is specifically designed to be a catalyst for social and cultural change by getting young people to interact and work with policy and programme makers within cultural institutions - getting their voices heard and advising the older professionals on new ways and ideas to reach youth audiences that might otherwise be disengaged from cultural cinema and in this way be exposed to different lives and cultures represented in the World and British Cinema titles some of the groups selected for screenings. Being part of a cinema team and gaining experience in a whole range of new skills from film research to public speaking, marketing, technical and entrepreneurial skills gave them a new awareness of what is possible and a more confident attitude to creating change and seeking a job within the film exhibition industry.

Knowledge & Experience

Young people gain knowledge and gain professional film programming and event management experience as part of an intensive and long-term programme that helps them imagine and realise their full potential, planning and researching as a team and then learning from direct hands-on experience to literally ‘make things happen’. The project harnesses young people’s D.I.Y attitude and commitment to ‘making a difference’ by providing first hand training and experience in the field of cinema programming and exhibition.  Many of the participants had never heard of film programming before or even considered film exhibition as a career path, and the aim of engaging with traditionally ‘hard-to-reach’ 16 - 30 year olds was an explicit creative challenge designed to spur and nurture their creativity and get them to think outside the box. In this way the project directly spurs creativity and nurtures the next generation of creative talent, getting young people to devise new and ingenious ways to re-frame the local cinema as a meeting place for 16 - 30 year olds and create new hybrid events and seasons that draw young audiences to cultural cinema.

In addition, the challenge and professional context has had a big impact on the participants aspirations, leading directly to career aspirations as well as finding out about the wider industry and organisations like the BFI and ICO. 20 of the young film programmers visited BFI Southbank for the first time and gained marketing training from industry professionals that motivated and inspired them to go further and attend the Flatpack Film Camp in Birmingham and the ICO Young Audiences Screening Day in Manchester. Several of the young film programmers have also presented case-studies at Network Training Days and written blogs for the Film Hub South East webpage.

Social Cohesion

The development of this ‘network’ has had an unexpected and important impact on social cohesion, particularly relevant to this age group who have grown up with well-documented issues relating to mental health.

The raison d’etre of creating a youth screening strand is aimed at drawing young people together as a cinema audience enjoying films with their peers and discussing them face-to-face. Therefore, the Young Film Programmer groups have created a strong sense of belonging and identity linked with their local cinema and the wider community of YFPs across the FHSE network. Young People responded particularly well to the ‘speed-dating’ activities as part of the networking event, and the professionals found the opportunity to share practice and trouble-shoot with other venue facilitators at the networking and training events highly productive.

The closed Facebook group and webpage map have given the participants a very clear sense of community within the network and it has clearly energised the young people to be more outward-looking and engaged in society as a whole. The project gives young people a voice and brings them face-to-face with others in the community. Many of the young film programmers commented on their enjoyment and confidence meeting each other at the face-to-face networking evening at BFI Southbank. Many admitted they had been apprehensive, but were surprised by the enjoyment and difference they felt afterwards:

“I found myself so inspired by the people I was talking to, from people who had been doing this for eighteen months to those who had been at it for only two. As a generation that almost prides itself on not raising our eyes above the screen in front of us, having the veil pierced and being put into a situation I would normally try to avoid, has changed my perspective for the better.”

What audiences said

  • “Belonging to a Young Film Programmers Group is an opportunity that has opened so many doors for me and all of the others. We all have so much to offer each other and the industry, and before that evening I hadn’t even realised it. I find myself now constantly looking ahead with new ideas. It also made me see that we are already having an impact in our local community, and in doing so in the larger community within the South East.” Jasmine Chapman, The Palace, Broadstairs
  • “Probably the best thing was seeing other young people doing great creative projects and talking to a professional in the field. It’s great all of us getting together, we should do it more often. Honestly I’m inspired!” Jack Robson, The Palace Broadstairs
  • “I was recommended to join by my mentor at college and I’ve loved being part of it. My confidence in speaking up and putting my ideas forward has increased massively. When our first screening happened, it was my choice and I was really nervous of the reaction from the audience, but when they all enjoyed it I got such a buzz from having made it happen.” Molly Fenwick, Electric Palace Hastings
  • “It’s a great way to meet new people, make connections and learn about film. It’s a blossoming foundation. I’ve learned marketing skills and learning about film distribution, not to mention people skills and pitching ideas.” Maxi Della-Porta, Electric Palace Hastings
  • “It serves as an interesting work experience outside of the norm and it’s a fun way to meet new people in a thriving industry.” Zensi Alleyne, South Hill Park Arts Bracknell
  • “We are a passionate, excited group of people dedicated to sharing the wonders of culture and life through film.” Abby Dowsett, South Hill Park Arts Bracknell

What professionals, press and partners said

  • “The in-house session was the perfect way for us as partners and as a team to really understand the vision for the project and how we move forward as one team...It was great to actually get the relevant people in the same room, to actually carve out that time to look at how we move forward.” Dayna White Programme and Development Officer, The Curve, Slough
  • “The Curve is delighted to be involved with the Young Film Programmers Network. We are a relatively young venue wishing to develop our film programme and the opportunity to receive this support in order to develop a young film audience is very timely. The YFP is more than this, encompassing development for other roles around film production and marketing. The way this is approached is inclusive of local partners such as Resource Productions, and enables everyone to express their opinions. Thank you for including Slough in this project”. Jackie Gray - Libraries and Culture Development Manager, Slough Borough Council
  • “It’s been really rewarding to create a sense of community, have a shared cultural/social purpose and get a semi ready-made education vehicle for engaging local young people. The networking day was really helpful (wish I had brought all 4 of my core group, the ones that went LOVED EVERY SECOND).” Corinna Downing, Palace Broadstairs.
  • “I wanted to showcase cinema to my area that may have not been seen otherwise and I have learned people and locations managing. I now hope to give young people experiences in creative managerial roles and would like to run more local youth film groups and film events in our area.” Ryan Joyce, The Curve, Slough.
  • “Really amazing presentations that have really inspired me to start a young programmers group and how to overcome the obstacles of putting one together.” Micheal McDermott, The Old Market, Brighton.
  • “All totally new, interesting and with potential for Reading Refugee clients” Nick Harborne, Reading Refugees