Case Study: Protected: Stroud Film Festival

The eighth festival ran in person from 4th - 27th of March 2022 at 10 independent venues across Stroud, returning after online-only events in 2021.

  • #SFF2022

Summary

During the period 4th - 27th March, 25 screening events took place across the Stroud area at 10 independent venues.

4 lead-in events ran before the festival opened, designed to raise awareness of Stroud Film Festival following the launch of the print programme and the website on 20th January.

Drop-in screenings ran during the festival at the Museum in the Park, whilst an exhibition of film posters took place from 18th - 27th March. A post-festival event ran on 7th April.

Project aims

  • To broaden the local community’s range of experience in film and cinema, to rebuild the audience and support the creation of new ones.

  • To build on past collaborations with 14 partner venues and organisations; continue using other non-traditional screening venues, for example a Community Centre, Pub and brewery.

  • To build on a track record of events focussing on film and its role in exploring current and complex topics.

  • To develop screenings by, with and for young people.

  • To engage the expertise of local film groups to support and promote the work of professional filmmakers in the region such as through collaborations with Stroud’s Black Ark Media.

  • To screen films connected with Stroud’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.

  • To develop a successful annual Stroud Film Festival as an integral element in the town’s exceptional festival programme.

Headlines

  • 10 venue collaboration.

  • Some events employed the capacity of film to raise questions in a unique way. This year's themes ranged from health, to what it means to be Black and British, through climate emergency and the role of sound in film.

  • The festival adapted by becoming 'long and thin' and focussing on attracting primarily an audience within a 5-mile radius. This was driven by the post covid uncertainties around audiences from further away. A more compressed, more traditional model may be adopted next year.

  • As in all previous years of the festival, box office income has covered the majority of costs.

Films

View the 2022 programme in full: https://www.stroudfilmfestival.org/events-2022

Duchenne Boys was screened followed by Q&A with Iranian director Sohrab Kavir.

Q&A’s also took place with the directors of Dying to Divorce, Film Maker’s House and Chasing Mandela’s Rainbow.

Stroud based film makers were represented at all levels of the industry from Guy Davies’ feature Philophobia (As I Am) to Elizabeth Stopford, Joe Magee and Hatty Frances Bell.

Black Ark Media presented two powerful yet contrasting films. The launch of the festival featured an introduction and readings by Bristol’s first poet laureate, Miles Chambers followed by a screening of Pariah. Afterwards he was joined on stage for a Q&A with members of Black Ark Media.

Atelier programmed four films on food, farming, and the environment; which also inspiringly covered by Gather, Solastalgia and 14 Days South.

Highly acclaimed drama titles also included La Mif (France), High Ground (Australia) and You will Die at Twenty (Sudan).

Films by young people were programmed and screened at Stroud Valley’s Artspace, and this year we had a feature film selected by the same two young programmers: the classic Napoleon Dynamite and Wreck-it Ralph. Programmed for young people in schools in collaboration with IntoFilm at the Electric Picture House, Wotton.

For the first time a ‘relaxed’ screening was on the programme, The Greatest Showman, in partnership with Stroud charity AllSorts.

Two events involved live soundtracks for silent films, one by internationally acclaimed musicians. ‘The Art of Sound in Film’ explores how sound and pictures work together, and ‘Making the Pelicantata’ documents the performance of an original piece of music. Sound is also the focus of the acclaimed Sisters with Transistors, the story of electronic music’s female pioneers, another event with a director Q&A.

Stroud Valleys Artspace was the venue for That’s What She Said, which brought together short films by female directors from the South West while Hawkwood hosted ‘This Thing of Darkness’ which explores the wider role of film in recovering from trauma with director Elizabeth Stopford.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan brings a Bollywood element to the festival while the wide-ranging programme continued with Last Cuckoo Night. This unique celebration of poetry and poets, some of it on film, some live, was on stage at the Sub Rooms.

Key partnerships

Programming partners and venues:

• Allsorts

• Atelier

• Black Ark Media

• Electric Picture House Cinema, Wotton

• Good on Paper (local listings magazine)

• Hawkwood

• Hidden Notes

• Lansdown Film Club

• The Long Table

• The Museum in the Park

• Stroud Brewery

• Stroud Film Society

• Stroud Subscription Rooms

• Stroud Valleys Artspace

Supporting organisations:

• BFI Film Audience Network

• Darbyshire

• Stroud Arts Festival

• Stroud Town Council

• South West Film Hub

Budget in brief

Income:

FAN Film Exhibition Fund: £2k
Sponsors and other grants: £2k

Expenditure:

Design, print programmes, posts, distribution, website development and hosting, social media campaign: £3.2k
5 subsidised events: £800

19 other events supported through box office sales

What worked

  • More than half of this year’s screenings included a chance to meet the director of the film and, it was really pleasing that so many had agreed to take part in the festival.

    Many other screenings formed part of an event with a discussion, speaker panel or other attraction such as poetry or music.

  • The 10 partner venues and organisations programmed films and events with the aim of making the festival really broad, offering something exciting for a wide range of film tastes.

    Use of non-traditional venues: this year, Stroud Brewery, Brimscombe Mill (home of food charity the Long Table), the Trinity Rooms and Minchinhampton Market Hall all became temporary cinemas.

  • Co-producing a number of events with Young Programmers, Black Ark Media and All Sorts (charity for children with additional needs), in addition to the main partners.

  • Before the festival began, there was a very positive response to the variety reflected in the programme but also an uncertainty around audience numbers based on the impact of the pandemic on people’s behaviour and the fear of covid disrupting plans. During the difficult times of 2021 the festival had ran a series of online events, showcasing work by Stroud based film makers, whilst also raising money for charity.

    Following this, the broad range of programme was generally well attended. Several screenings were sold out although numbers were down on 2020 figures and some events didn't have the audience numbers they deserved. This was not unexpected.

What has been difficult

  • Uncertainty about audience numbers post lockdowns.

  • The Launch event, which was held at Stroud’s largest venue, went very well but didn’t get the audience it deserved. Bristol’s first poet laureate Miles Chambers was part of the line-up along with the excellent Pariah and a panel discussion with Black Ark Media.

    As the first event, the billing ‘launch’ wasn’t specific enough and the publicity machine was still getting up to speed. Lessons learnt.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Reduce the duration of the festival to 17 days.

  • Aim for more screenings and events over the three weekends in order to attract out-of-town audiences.

  • Aim to attract additional funding in order to provide all film-makers with an appropriate fee for their time and for the screening of their film.

  • To work with Vue with the aim of using one of their screens for one or more screenings.

  • Even more audience engagement prior to the launch - through social media and press around the year-round events.

  • To run more screenings in spaces without projection including some community centres.

Awareness / Attitudes

Climate emergency: this year’s print programmes were delivered for the first time by Bike Drop, a network using electric cycle riders to drop publicity at outlets. The festival was again plastic free.

The screening programme aimed for:

  • Positive, engaging stories.
  • Aiming for audiences who aren’t typically involved in climate campaigns.

Each of these was followed by a Q&A with the film makers or a panel of people expert in a specific area.

Regenerative Agriculture in the Saudi Desert and Hope in a Changing Climate were well attended and also accompanied by speakers.

Your Health is Your Gut, Repair Cafes and The Toaster Project also played to good audiences in a range of venues around Stroud.

The festival continues the connections formed with charities during 2020 and 2021 Stroud Foodbank, The Long Table (food charity), refugee organisations, Snowland Journeys(supporting Himalayan children), Longfields Community Hospice, and ArtShape (whose vision is that all people can choose to engage with the arts as equals)

Diversity

A number of events at this year’s festival employed the capacity of film to raise questions in a unique way. This year’s themes ranged from health, through climate emergency and food and farming to what it means to be black and British.

  • Develop screenings co-produced by this group around a BLM strand.
  • Created screening opportunities for films made by people from a diverse range of backgrounds.
  • Co-produced a relaxed screening
  • Used of a range of non-traditional venues

Duchenne Boys (UK/Iran) was screened in the lead in and then later, because of high demand, at the end of the festival, both times with director Q&A.

Dying to Divorce was followed by a Q&A online from London with the director and from Istanbul with the producer.

That’s What She Said: a screening of films by female directors from the South West, followed by a panel discussion, curated and introduced by Hatty Bell.

For the first time, a ‘relaxed’ screening was on the programme, The Greatest Showman was programmed in partnership with the Stroud charity All Sorts which works with families whose children have a range of needs. Members of the charity chose the film which was widely appreciated. A dark den was on hand as well as other facilities to put everyone at their ease.

 

Knowledge & Experience

‘Sound’ was another strand this year around music and sound in film. Two events involved live soundtracks for silent films. Sonic Silents are internationally acclaimed musicians playing to Frank Borzage films from 1915. Then, in collaboration with South West Silents and Stroud Arts Festival, two groups of young musicians played live sound to a number of classic silent shorts including Manhatta and Journey to the Moon.

The Art of Sound in Film explored how sound and pictures work together on screen, with director Joe Magee and sound designer Tom Jacob showing clips of well-known films and two shorts on which they’d collaborated.

Sound was also the focus of the acclaimed Sisters with Transistors, the story of electronic music’s female pioneers, another event with a director Q&A. At this event, Edith Bowman chaired the conversation with Lisa Rovner.

The Last Cuckoo Night, was a unique celebration of poetry and poets, some of it on film, some on stage. Documentary maker Mark Chaudoir screened the eponymous film about Stroud’s Dennis Gould, alongside shorts about a wide range of poets including Kae Tempest and Elvis McGonagall.

 

Social Cohesion

Aiming to engage audiences beyond those who would consider themselves likely film festival goers; 10 venues were used, many of which had not been used as screening spaces before.

Other projects included; working with young musicians and the Stroud Arts Festival to create ‘Young Musicians Play Live Soundtracks to Silent Films’, a co-production of relaxed screening with All Sorts charity, much-publicised poetry event at the town’s biggest venues, the Sub Rooms

Significant coverage in the Stroud News and Journal and very positive feedback also helped.

Wellbeing

Climate emergency: this year’s print programmes were delivered for the first time by Bike Drop, a network using electric cycle riders to drop publicity at outlets. The festival was again plastic free.

The screening programme aimed for:

  • Positive, engaging, uplifting stories.
  • Audiences who aren’t typically involved in climate campaigns
  • Films from non-western cultures offered insight into other relationships with the environment.

Films connecting with food, farming and the environment included Gather, Solastalgia, the Story of Plastic and 14 Days South.

Each of these was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, or a panel of people who are experts in a specific area. Regenerative Agriculture in the Saudi Desert and Hope in a Changing Climate were well attended and also accompanied by speakers.

Your Health is Your Gut, Repair Cafes and The Toaster Project also played to good audiences in a range of venues around Stroud

Economy

Working with ten venues all of which had been affected by lockdown, placing Stroud Film Festival as part of Stroud’s annual festival programme, providing opportunities to showcase young filmmakers, and forging connections with local businesses – such as Festival print material was delivered by Bike Drop, a local initiative which uses cycling as the means of transport.

What audiences said

  • “Having the director of the film there for a Q&A was great - it really took the experience of film beyond the superficial into understanding how and why he made it and the complexities of that. It brought filmmaking to life, something I had very little understanding of despite going to film societies for decades!”

  • “Martha Tilston's evening was brilliant. Packed to the rafters and a wonderful mixture of film, humour, great Q&A and live music. I loved the whole thing. Hosts Jo and Anna did a fab job, and I was so happy I attended, with friend who is a singer songwriter. She is going to make films too, now!”

  • “This was amazing to watch.... really impressive, interesting and different!”

  • “I only attended one event and am unable to attend others before this year's Festival finishes. But it has encouraged me to watch out for SFF 2023, when I'll certainly be doing more!”

What professionals, press and partners said

  • “It was a very enjoyable evening! Thanks too for the opportunity and all your support. According to Jo we sold 60 tickets, so it was a sell-out. It did feel like there was real excitement for events like this.”
    • Hattie Frances Bell, Film Maker and producer of That’s What She Said

  • “A great evening of seeing an exciting wide range of film. An extremely positive & exciting reviews from people we’ve spoken too. Young Artists asking for more events. All tickets sold. To improve: in future be slightly more selective with the films being shown.”
    • Jimmy & Evie Producers of Dangervitch and Neptune’s Bazaar, an evening of short films by young people.

  • “The festival has really added to the profile (and the income) of Stroud Film Society”
    • Claire Carpenter

  • “Many thanks to you & Jo for giving us the platform to screen Pariah last night and after all the nerves I actually enjoyed it.”
    • Derrick McLean, Black Ark Media

Press coverage

  • Press coverage of the 2022 festival can be found in a google drive here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1LD13LrdH1prBHmr2HS9BBi7HIZQPUuC-?usp=sharing

    It also contains scans of local press articles over five different weeks, in the Stroud News and Journal, as well as pages from Good on Paper, Stroud's listings magazine and an advert in The Big Issue which was circulated nationally.