Case Study: The Queer Film Network

  • Iris Prize Best British Jury_QFN member Helen Wright is second right

The Queer Film Network (QFN) is a growing network of film programmers from across the UK who specialise in LGBTQIA+ programming. They work together to promote on screen diversity across the UK film sector, bringing quality British films to wider audiences.

Why this matters

There was a clear gap in LGBTQIA cinema between exhibitors and the distribution and production sectors. Film programmers across the UK who specialise in LGBTQIA programming noted that they were often voluntary and worked in isolation. The Queer Film Network connects and supports these programmers, which promotes screening diversity across the UK film sector. Together, they have a stronger voice and can bring quality British films to wider audiences in a more meaningful and strategic way.

Project aims

  • Create links between exhibitors and the distribution and production sectors;
  • Provide a stronger platform for LGBTQIA film year round;
  • Developing audiences for queer cinema through the UK and Ireland, with increased access to films and information;
  • Increasing screening opportunities for queer filmmakers;
  • Exchanging creative and practical ideas, information and experiences with the aim of benefiting members’ film festivals and year-round programmes;
  • Instigating and supporting programmes and events that the network hopes will be toured around the UK and Ireland;
  • Growing and developing the network by opening up membership to queer film programmers nationwide.

Headlines

  • Network was launched to 100 industry guests and audience members at Iris in October 2015. There are now 16 members split across 8 Film Hub regions,
  • Since the inaugural full members meeting in Sheffield, there were 7 gatherings in 15/16 with 34 attendances by 21 individuals. QFN held their first meeting of 16/17 in Liverpool on the 20th/21st of August where they discussed upcoming tours, trade union funding opportunities and positive methods for evaluating LGBTQIA audiences,
  • There were 645 audience attendances across 6 events in 15/16,
  • QFN has met at Liverpool Pride, Flare in London, Gaze in Dublin and Iris Cardiff. QFN has been represented at events in Cardiff and Manchester, where 3 members of QFN were invited to speak at a Queer Film Festivals Symposium demonstrating the profile of the network,
  • Relationships have been built with major queer film distributors such as Peccadillo Pictures, TLA Releasing and Wolfe Releasing,
  • In celebration of LGBT History Month, QFN coordinated its first tour with the support of FAN. Exceeding predicted audience figures, the tour was very well received.

Films

As part of the LGBT History Month tour, In The Closet screen at Queer Media Manchester, Rainbow F.F. Shrewsbury, Fringe! London and Queer Vision Bristol, with Q&A from director Stu Maddox. Other films programmed include Iris LOVE bites shorts, The New Black and the POUT Peccadillo Tour. A calendar of relevant anniversary/significant dates has been set up, which offer opportunities for collaborative themed screenings and tours such as LGBT History month, World Aids day, TDoR (Trans Day of Remembrance) and IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia theme ‘Families’). Three tours are planned for 16/17, including Real Boy; a trans documentary which will visit Glasgow, Shropshire and Cardiff accompanied by Jo Stevens who will also be performing his acoustic set as part of the evening. The Best of Iris 2016 will also play across the network, with plans to certificate by the BBFC.

Key partnerships

Queer Film Network Chair (up to March 2016): Iris Prize Members: Queer Vision, GAZE International LGBT Film Festival; Wotever DIY Film Festival; Queer Media; Liverpool Pride at the Pictures; Shropshire Rainbow Festival; Queers In Shorts; Scottish Queer International Film Festival; Outburst Queer Arts Festival; Club des Femmes; Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest; Anomaly – Manchester Queer Film Festival; Queer Chester Films NW; Cornwall Film Festival AND Chapter Cardiff. Lead Hub: Film Hub Wales Hub partners: Film Hub Scotland, Film Hub NI, Film Hub North West Central, Film Hub North, Film Hub London, Film Hub Central East, Film Hub South East and Film Hub South West & West Midlands.

Budget in brief

Total budget allocated across 9 hub regions was £10,415 including any FAN monies, other funding awards, staff time, in-kind venue costs etc. Income also includes £420 in membership fees and £523 from FHNWC, SWWM and FHL towards Reel in the Closet. FAN have also awarded support in the amount of £9000 for year two. QFN are busy developing fundraising applications to diversify income.

What worked

  • QFN has established a constituted network with associated elements including bank account and administration to process new members,
  • There have been regular meetings across the UK with the executive group and members,
  • The website and social media accounts are running successfully,
  • Members have been able to discuss and share knowledge on various subjects such as programming, marketing events, accessing funding and upcoming titles,
  • Members have learned about dealing with distributors, the potential of joined up working and creative approaches to programming that other queer film exhibitors are undertaking,
  • Members have been able to forge partnerships that increase programming diversity and reach new audiences,
  • QFN has promoted queer programming opportunities and its own tour,
  • QFN was rated as 5* by members on their individual evaluation forms for the year 2015/16.

What has been difficult

  • The network has been run primarily by volunteers to date other than the administration hours, which of course creates challenges for all involved as it relies on passion and investment of time,
  • Capturing data from audience surveys has been difficult as each organisation talks to their audience in a different way and have preferred methods,
  • Hubs note pockets of LGBTQIA activity regionally but organisations are not always well known and outreach can require specialist knowledge which takes time to develop.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • QFN would take more pictures of everything they get up to! This is a priority this year.

Awareness / Attitudes

One of the founding principles of the Queer Film Network was to provide a stronger platform for LGBTQIA film year round. The QFN focuses on developing audiences for queer cinema with increased access to films and information. This has led to better representation of LGBTQIA films in UK cinemas, and with it, increased awareness of its filmmakers, programmers and audiences.

Diversity

The QFN has enabled queer programmers to better serve the needs of their existing audiences and to reach new ones. This includes how to cater for and represent different members of the LGBTQIA community in their programming, and ensuring their venues and screenings are accessible to different physical and social needs.

Members have also noted that they have learned the importance of respecting the independence of each partner. The diversity of the LGBTQIA film community has become a strength on the QFN.

Knowledge & Experience

Members have been actively encouraged to share best practices in programming, screening, marketing and sponsorship. This network has allowed programmers large and small to support each other, increasing opportunities across the sector.

Programmers have been able to work on projects together and with major queer distributors. These partnerships have increased opportunities and attendance for events.

What professionals, press and partners said

  • “It is already making a difference to individual festivals in advancing their work.”
  • “Being part of the QFN has been invaluable. I am extremely proud to have been invited to the initial meeting in Cardiff and be given a voice in the birth of the network.”
  • “The Sheffield meeting was a great chance to hear the best practice on making venues and screenings more accessible.”
  • “The support of Berwyn Rowlands in being able to screen IRIS shorts has been extremely good – the short film night was one of our best attended of the year and mixing IRIS content with locally made short films is a winning formula that other Network members can replicate.”
  • “This initially looked like a difficult proposition as the membership was so diverse, with some having paid staff and others relying 100% on volunteers. In the end it became clear that we also had a lot in common, and although some had annual budgets of £100,000 and others budgets of £1,000, we were all contributing in different ways to increasing audiences for LGBT film. The diversity in membership, coupled with different priorities, is a strength and I’ve been able to change priorities.”
  • One partner remarked that they have a “potential new audience for LGBT short films because of the relationships established through the QFN.”
  • “I have developed and re-launched our festival using content through a new partnership. The partnerships feed directly into my programming and have increased Queer Visions screenings and therefore increased audience numbers.”
  • “Bristol Pride’s film festival Queer Vision has capitalised on networking opportunities through the QFN and has worked very hard to make the most of the knowledge, resources and support that has been available and as a result our festival has been transformed.”
  • “Not only did it give me the opportunity to network with, and forge links with LGBT film festivals in the UK, but it was also very creatively stimulating with regard to programming LGBT film – addressing balances in content and exploring new areas of thematic content.”