Case Study: Inclusive Cinema – celebrating diversity in cinema

Film Hub London - We Are Parable Picturehouse Central

In 2017, the (then nine) regional film hubs recognised a need to better coordinate initiatives and efforts to increase accessibility for cinema audiences with additional needs. Film Hub Wales brought a FAN Access Officer on board to:
- Connect the dots across the UK between various accessible cinema projects,
- Map activity and existing resources,
- Collectively promote the work of FAN,
- Share best practice within the membership and across the wider industry,
- Develop a shared space or portal to profile inclusive cinema.
The Inclusive Cinema strategy evolved during BFI 2022 planning, not only to support audiences with disability but audiences from any marginalised background that may find cinema hard to access. Connecting to the BFI’s Diversity Standards, Inclusive Cinema would focus on developing audiences identifying as LGBTQ+, BAMER, D/deaf or Disabled, and/or working class or those on low-incomes, also recognising those aged 16-30.
Inclusivecinema.org went live in September 2018, alongside the launch of a dementia-friendly screenings guide, made in collaboration with UKCA and Alzheimer’s Society. The site is the first of its kind, containing news, resources, relevant awareness dates, data and guidance to support the growth of inclusive cinema and accessible screenings.

  • #InclusiveCinema

Summary

Many audiences continue to comment on the lack of accessibility in cinemas, or cultural mis-steps in their approaches. These comments are funnelled directly through cinemas but also through third sector or advocacy organisations, such as Dimensions, RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss, grassroots film exhibitors and festivals, who are often more closely connected with marginalised communities.

Some of these concerns are around logistical issues, such as testing and/or upgrading of equipment, understanding from cinema teams, or feeling like the cinema space is for another ‘type’ of person and not them. We undertook an Access Survey in 2017, revealing a need from exhibitors for more confidence and understanding, resources, financial support, and guidance in delivering better experiences for diverse audiences. We felt, at Film Hub Wales that this work needed to be tackled from multiple angles, hence the creation of the Inclusive Cinema strategy.

As a public funded programme, the BFI Film Audience Network has a responsibility to ensure that cinemas are accessible to the widest and most diverse range of audiences, and that our membership is not only meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, but excelling and championing inclusive spaces and viewpoints.

Dedicated initiatives are needed, and have proven their success, at engaging with and maintaining relationships with diverse audiences. Inclusivecinema.org is a central platform collating multiple resources from within and outside the cinema sector, featuring data sets to support funding bids and reports, how-to guides created by diverse experts for diverse audiences, and case studies of lessons learned and best practice.

Project aims

  • The Inclusive Cinema website aims to support the overarching aims of the Inclusive Cinema strategy, by housing, developing and promoting supportive content:
    • An online resource which will act as a benchmark and go-to place for future activity,
    • Toolkits and how-to guides to support film screenings, covering practicalities through to marketing ideas, and how to get the BFI Diversity Mark of Good Practice,
    • Workshop and activity guides,
    • Funding guidance for more ambitious projects,
    • Partner contacts to provide expertise and support,
    • Evidence to share with colleagues and funders,
    • Training to build confidence when working with diverse groups,
    • Networking opportunities to meet with peers who are running inclusive screenings,
    • Awareness-raising programmes to build the visibility of inclusive cinema and to represent diversity on screen,
    • Support to providers exploring new screening programmes

Headlines

  • Inclusivecinema.org has been live since Sep 2018. By the start of May 2019:
    • 2.8k users have undertaken 6.1k sessions with an average dwell time of 2m 51s
    • Direct referrals have been most effective (41.5%), with organic searches (36.4%) and social media (16.3) providing over half of remaining referrals.
    • There have been 506 how-to guide views and downloads (these are just for guides created specifically for Inclusive Cinema, not those which are created by partners/other organisations and signposted).
    • The most popular guides are autism-friendly screenings, Being LGBTQ+- friendly in your cinema, and dementia-friendly screenings.
    • The most popular case studies are ‘Cinema for us – all of us, Wicked Cinema Rhyl,’ ‘Derbyshire Film,’ and ‘Glasgow Film Theatre’s Access Film Club.’
    • The supporting Twitter channel @InclusiveCinema has 700+ followers, the closed Facebook group FAN Inclusive Cinema has 98 members.

Films

We have promoted multiple events and titles through the website, associated promotional channels (newsletter, Twitter and Facebook) and via film hub comms. Key titles highlighted include:
• A Fantastic Woman
• Deaf shorts showcase and Shorts: We See You by Encounters
• A Deal with the Universe
• Irene’s Ghost
• Madeline’s Madeline
We’ve also supported relevant FAN New Release titles.

Key partnerships

We’ve worked alongside the UKCA to develop and amplify disability access campaigns, partnering with Alzheimer’s Society and Dimensions on specific guidance.
We’ve also developed guidance with intersectional film experts:
- SQIFF for accessibility and LGBTQ+ advice
- 888 Film Club for D/deaf awareness and BAME film clubs
- Iris Prize, Cardiff University around the LGBTQ+ dementia experience
And for targeted resources:
- 104 Films for Disabled Heroes coverage, Unlimited and University of A-typical for training
- GFT, Tyneside, Derby Quad, for autism-friendly training
- Black Box and Oska Bright for learning disabled support
- A Life More Ordinary, Courtyard Creative Ageing, Phoenix for dementia-friendly work
- Gentle/Radical, British Blacklist, New Black Film Collective, Tongues on Fire, Day for Night around BAME work and the development of the Reel Change project bid
- AccessAble, Access is Everything, Euan’s Guide around a standard for access

Budget in brief

£4356 - website
£5000 - PR, 2 awareness campaigns, 1 project promotion
ca. £200 - social media spend
£1601 - marketing content (banners, postcards, video capture) £112 - couriers for events
£196 - translation
£3616 - marketing officer & access coordinator
in kind - FAN access officer

What worked

  • • Delivery of a comprehensive resource featuring hundreds of guides, templates and reports to support audience development for cinemas
    • PR around the website launch and World Alzheimer’s Month was successful and got the word out about the site and project
    • Twitter has built a growing and steady following, with engagement from audiences
    • Cinemas are using the how-to guides and case studies to inform their learning
    • The support of a part-time access coordinator to oversee the growth and addition of resources to the site, and to maintain comms on socials and through the newsletter was integral to its initial success.

What has been difficult

  • • Web development is always a slow process and some elements of the site could not be completed in phase i – the site was also delayed in going live
    • PR around World Autism Month for the autism-friendly screenings guide was tricky, with little appetite from national news for the story, and a low count of regional case studies from individuals with autism
    • Building subscriptions for the Inclusive Cinema newsletter has been short on results, and time-consuming, despite the use of competitions and promotional drives.
    • More work needs to be done to engage third sector partners with the work and the site, and to promote the opportunity of accessing/partnering on screenings to community representatives
    • Maintaining fresh content and updating awareness dates requires time and energy that is hard to resource from the existing team of one working on Inclusive Cinema

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • For phase ii we will look to:
    • Develop features with our web developers and do a tiered release so we can test and feedback quickly and improve the site
    • Support our proven PR agent to tie in relevance of the site with upcoming campaigns including an access awareness campaign planned for 2019/20. • Maximise publicity of our channels through the site and vice versa, with scheduled media, and the support of an access coordinator on placement. Continue to investigate and trial advertising spend to push sign ups and followers.
    • Conduct third sector engagement to advocate for the site, and to drive interest and participation from diverse communities through incentives.
    • Look at further channels for widening the reach of the resources on inclusivecinema.org if/when extra resource is found. e.g. podcasts, news/thought pieces, appearances at more events

Awareness / Attitudes

• Case studies share sector-wide experiences of a variety of projects to inform the work done by cinemas running inclusive spaces,
• How-to guides and data sections of the site illustrate the facts and are created by community representatives with lived experience to contribute to advice
• Audience quotes and testimonials show the experience of attending dedicated accessible screenings in comparison to regular screenings and the impact this can have
• Articles, editorial pieces signposted by inclusivecinema.org continue the conversation around diversity in cinema, driving culture change

Diversity

• Inclusive Cinema aims to build diversity considerations into the make-up of audience development through the provision of resources that support, and initiatives that drive expectation on cinemas,
• All under-represented groups are considered in the delivery of the project, with gaps around guidance being filled in collaboration with sector partners

Knowledge & Experience

• The resource is first and foremost a training resource for exhibitors, and as well as providing the practical support, it is also focused around the arguments and the factual information that can be used to make the case for diversity, whether that is creative, economic or ethical.
• By showing the work championed by leading FAN members, and acting as a central hub to connect exhibitors across the country, Inclusive Cinema is able to inspire and engage exhibitors to be bolder.

Social Cohesion

• The site arms exhibitors with the tools to strengthen connections in their communities, including by providing key partner lists and contacts
• Content includes videos of talks, personal statements, as well as project outlines that talk to a philosophy of embracing diversity and practicing and embedding inclusion principles into daily work.
• Exhibitors have recommended the resource to co-workers, visited and re-visited the site, and engage on the site’s channels to discuss inclusion in cinema.

Wellbeing

• Initiatives such as DFS and AFS (dementia- and autism-friendly screenings) work towards creating a slice of ordinary life for people who face constant limitations to participating in a world that doesn’t embrace the social model, on a daily basis.
• Expanding the amount of quality accessible cinema for these audiences results in happier, healthier people who can experience the transformative power of cinema and the joy of the shared audience experience.
• A focus on engaging diverse groups improves a cinema’s customer service and results in better experiences for all customers, whatever their identities.

Economy

• Putting forward the economic case for diversity is valuable in securing the widest section of leaders working in cinema to embrace inclusion within their work. Diverse audiences make up a huge available audience that many cinemas are not engaging with as much as they could be. Supporting cinemas to recognise these benefits is part of the focus of Inclusive Cinema, and elements of the site are dedicated to forwarding this understanding.

What audiences said

  • “Inclusive Cinema is vital and extremely necessary. Finally, there is a resource supporting BAME exhibitors, educators and programmers - tapping into what’s out there, connecting organisations and building confidence. I look forward to accessing this portal, hearing new voices and having important peer-to-peer discussions about developing cinema for diverse audiences.”
    The New Black Film Collective

What professionals, press and partners said

  • “Recalling memories is not unusual in a place like the Rio. The art deco building is more than 100 years old and the auditorium has barely changed in that time. “Last year, a woman who hadn’t been since she was a child came to one of the screenings,” says Houston. “We took her up to the circle and as soon as the lights went down, she burst into tears. She remembered coming to the Saturday morning kids’ club when she was young.”
    To improve other cinemas’ offerings, the BFI Film Audience Network, the UK Cinema Association and the Alzheimer’s Society have created a dementia- friendly screenings guide.
    “Any cinema can pick it up and get guidance on reaching isolated people with dementia,” says Bould. The guide, launching next month, will also be part of the Film Audience Network’s upcoming online portal, aiming to build a wider, more diverse UK cinema audience. It will pull together toolkits from cinemas across the UK on ways to include anyone who might feel marginalised, unrepresented or unable to access cinema."
    The Guardian, 21 Sep 2017
    “The BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) has launched inclusivecinema.org, a website and online toolkit aimed at ‘breaking down barriers facing diverse audiences’.
    The site is aimed at exhibitors, to help them ‘create welcoming spaces with skilled staff that are more approachable for diverse film communities’, according the FAN. It offers over 300 resources including how-to guides and first-hand testimonies.”
    Screen Daily, 27 Sep 2018
    “Dimensions, a national autism and learning disability support provider, which pioneered autism-friendly initiatives in cinemas nationwide, has ramped up their partnership with the UK Cinema Association and BFI Film Audience Network (FAN). Supported by National Lottery funding, they have developed free autism- friendly training resources for all cinemas and cinema staff across the country. The training, launched at the start of World Autism Awareness Month, was developed by people on the autistic spectrum and industry experts. In becoming ‘autism-friendly’, cinema staff are trained on how to make small adjustments to the environment that creates a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for autistic people.”
    Happiful, 2 Apr 2019