In 2016 Film Hub Wales approached venues across North Wales to develop a project designed to reduce isolation, build creative infrastructure and generate buzz around British independent and international films.
In 2016 Film Hub Wales approached venues across North Wales to develop a project designed to reduce isolation, build creative infrastructure and generate buzz around British independent and international films. Galeri, Pontio, Theatr Ardudwy and Cellb responded, bringing expertise and new cinema experiences to audiences across Gwynedd.
The project aimed to create ‘big ideas in small places’ with rural audiences at the forefront. Following the closure of Ardudwy, the project adapted and the collective grew to 7 venues, welcoming Neuadd Dwyfor, Neuadd Ogwen, Dragon Theatre and TAPE.
Each venue is different in terms of its space and demographic but Welsh culture, heritage and access are at the core of OYG’s objectives. A diverse programme of films is offered across the network to engage audiences, taking them on a cinematic journey. Venues work collaboratively to promote films at each cinema through shared social media, trailers, coordinated film tours and Q&A sessions with talent – all of which provide enhanced cinema experiences.
Now in their fifth year, OYG has established an important hyper-local network, which has improved access to independent film in the region.
To maintain a collaborative network of venues across North Wales, that share a sense of heritage and place and benefit from the visibility of the ‘Off Y Grid’ (Off the Grid) brand.
To generate excitement around new British independent and international film releases - including Welsh made films, bringing talent to North Wales and championing the Welsh language.
With central coordination, venues benefit from capacity to negotiate rates, boost marketing (locating key audience groups for films, generating boosted Facebook ads, generating photography, shared programme notes, touring or recording Q&As).
To develop and showcase the work of young creatives, including the launch of a new YouTube channel and partner relationships with international festivals.
Over 4 years OYG have reached 66,721 audiences collectively through 513 films and 2338 screenings. Admissions were 222% over target.
OYG have screened at 17 locations to date including community outreach in areas such as Portmeirion, plus events online.
Touring Q&As such as ‘The Welshman’, 'I Daniel Blake', 'Love is Thicker Than Water' and '20th Century Women' promoted active discussions with political guest speakers and local charities.
They worked with venues to amplify in venue projects and promote diverse programming, such as TAPE’s Inclusion Film Festival, the Iris Prize, Watch Africa, screen heritage programmes and Gwŷl y Ferch (The Female Festival – a festival of short films curated and made by female filmmakers).
OYG also develops work, such as with young creatives at Ffilm Ifanc where they curated an evening of short films (Cymru Ni) by young filmmakers aged 7-30. Local primary school pupils screened their short film and took part in a Q&A. These films are available on the newly launched OYG YouTube channel.
Budget in brief
OYG have received £35,000 investment from FHW (an average of £8750 annually),
By working together as a network on outreach, OYG have built successful partnership collaborations that benefit mulitiple venues, such as Gŵyl y Ferch and Cymru Ni.
The opportunity to engaging with young filmmakers through projects like Ffilm Ifanc have resulted in school engagement. A highlight was seeing the excited reactions of primary school pupils as they watched their film on a cinema screen and took part in a follow-up Q&A.
An increase in the number of young female directors screening their work and being able to promote it to a wider audience through OYG cinemas.
Trying out new online formats such as the launch of an OYG YouTube channel to host filmed content that promotes both films and the partner venues. An initial online event with Cymru Ni (collaboration between IYFF and International Youth Media Summit) exceeded expectations with 386 viewers / 68 hours viewing time.
Bringing together the cinema managers for regular meetings reduces isolation and offers peer to peer support. From programming opportunities to strategy throughout Covid, encouraging people back into cinemas in North Wales again.
What has been difficult
Re-engaging audiences post-pandemic (particularly older audiences). Unpredictable visitor numbers, have made it more difficult to gauge the market and plan audience development approaches. Changes to venue circumstances as a result have made it more difficult to realise activities post-Covid.
The increase of films streaming on release and impact on the theatrical window.
Fewer quality film titles and changes in release dates.
What you would do differently if you did it again
Increase outreach to different groups and organisations.
Explore pay what you can afford models, where the financial barriers for venues allow.
More face-to-face engagement at venues – open days, for example.
Awareness / Attitudes
- OYG’s Touring Q&As such as ‘The Welshman’, ‘I Daniel Blake’, ‘Love is Thicker Than Water’ and ’20th Century Women’ promoted active discussions with political guest speakers and local charities. Academic and industry professionals were invited to screenings to broaden and enhance film experiences. This work is designed to raise awareness and offer insightful knowledge about different cultures within hyper-local settings where audiences would otherwise have limited access to these discussions.
- OYG presents a comprehensive programme of diverse films that represent global cultures and languages,
- They explore international celebrations such as Pride Month, International Women’s Day and International Mental Health Day.
- OYG operates under a shared brand that is strongly rooted in a sense of space and place. It’s designed to represent the cultural identity of North Wales, the Welsh language and local communities involved. It promotes local discussion and debate, so that audience have access to their cultural heritage on screen, without having to travel long distances to urban centres.
- OYG venues are situated across rural communities, highlighting the importance of cinema for socialising and meeting friends without any sense of elitism – especially after the isolation of lockdown,
- OYG also supports the 7 organisations that participate by enabling peer-to peer advice and support.
- While it is difficult to evaluate the economic impact of OYG post-pandemic, the cinemas offer affordable and competitive ticket and concessions prices which reflect local audience income.
- Venues are often at the heart of the rural communities, with audiences having to travel at least half an hour to reach the next nearest site. Enhanced experiences and additional assets create exciting events that boost box office income, supporting local jobs and reducing reliance on public funding.
What audiences said
“A very positive experience overall. A moving and engaging film which highlights some very important issues and shot beautifully.”
“Makes me want to change something. Very inspiring film.”
“I applaud the theatre for taking on board the current dilemmas and bringing the community together...lovely to see current films and to have this venue.”
“Cinema takes you out of yourself especially if you’re not feeling happy.”
“It’s a lovely little cinema, cosy, comfortable, friendly & shows a good variety of films.”
“Cinema’s a place where you can meet other people. It’s like going on holiday.”
What professionals, press and partners said
"It’s great to see our network of local cinemas collaborating to present an eclectic programme of independent films to audiences of all ages. In a challenging period cinema provides an opportunity to escape life’s difficulties and this year OYG’s programme is as exciting as ever." - Pauline Williams, Off Y Grid Coordinator
"Being part of the network gives us all economies of scale and stronger bargaining power when negotiating a deal with a distributor or talent. We see this network as something that will strengthen the appetite for independent/non-mainstream titles in the area.(...) There is so much potential for this network, long term there could be regular ‘curated’ screenings at each venue" - Off Y Grid Venue