Wales Youth Festival Network (WYFN) is an informal network for for supporting film festivals and venues across Wales to screen independent films to young audiences aged 15-26.
Wales Youth Festival Network (WYFN) has offered a range of different ways of helping and supporting its members. Regular meetings with guest speakers have taken place, a Zine featuring articles and information about new independent releases, young filmmakers and up and coming festivals has been produced and distributed, and an advisory board has been set up to ensure that the network is representative of members interests. In the summer of 2020, WYFN brought members together via an online film Festival, Three Films Festival. This was an opportunity to screen films from some of the different film festival members. The festival also featured some added value events such as introductions and Q&As and the festival was well received and well attended. In early 2021, WYFN Coordinator put a call out to members and on social media to see if any young people from Wales would be interested in being part of a Wales-wide young programmers group. This resulted in Ffilm Ifanc:Young Film, a group of creatives who have developed an innovative curatorial project, programming and screening films made for and by young people. Ffilm Ifanc have formed a natural bridge between WYFN and its members, offering up collaborative, youth led programming opportunities to bring authenticity to the network's aim to screen independent films which with peer age appeal. Ffilm Ifanc have already curated a number of bespoke programmes of Made in Wales short films for the online Chapter Player and in person screenings for Wicked Wales International Youth Film Festival. They have programmed a Made in Wales tour and collaborated with both WOW Film Festival and Cardiff Animation Festival.
The network was initiated by Wicked Wales Films, as members of the Youth Cinema Network, Wicked felt that a similar network would work in Wales and set up about establishing one.
To increase the number of independent films screened in Wales for young audiences
To bring festivals and venues together working on collaborative programmes of films and events
To bring authenticity to the selection of films on offer in Wales
Establishing a network which has 47 members representative of the diverse range of film festivals taking place across Wales
Holding an online film festival - Three Film Festivals during the first year of the Pandemic - which brought members, filmmakers and audiences together to celebrate the whole range of films screened by festival members at their own film festivals
Setting up Ffilm Ifanc and putting youth led curation at the centre of the network
Offering day to day advice and support to members looking to engage more with young audiences
Three Films Festival screened more than 25 films and Ffilm Ifanc have screened more than 30 films but several of them have screened more than once.
Wicked Wales Films - Wicked Wales was the instigator of the network, and has supported its activity since its inception.
Ffilm Ifanc - working with Ffilm Ifanc brings authenticity to the ethos of the network and the young programmers provide inspiration and innovation to everything that they do.
Advisory board - made up of advisors from WYFN members.
Budget in brief
Funding has been received from Film Hub Wales Film Exhibition Fund to support the last 10 months of WYFN operation:
Coordinator Fee: £4800
Events and Zine: £900
Advisory Board expenses: £1500
Establishing a new network with 40+ members with regular engagement from a core group of members at meetings and network talks is a success in itself
Three Films Festival really helped to develop relationships within the network and gave the network higher visibility
Setting up a young programmers Wales-wide group has been pivotal in terms of supporting members to screen films for young people and has helped raise the profile of young filmmakers in Wales who would like their films to be seen by an audience
What has been difficult
The biggest challenge has been evaluating how much impact the network has had in terms of festivals/venues screening more independent titles for young audiences. Despite an attempt at surveying members to find out baseline data, information has not been easy to collect
Working to support a large number of festivals across a large geographical area with members all having their own distinct niche and not all festivals/venues having the priority of engaging a youth audience
It is a large scale project with limited staffing time, resources and budget
What you would do differently if you did it again
Possibly establish a smaller group of festivals/venues who would sign up to some sort of agreement/MOU and reduce the reach of the project in order to be able to more effectively monitor how successful the impact of WYFN is on festivals/venues screening films for young audiences.
Awareness / Attitudes
WYFN set up an advisory board to ensure that the networks reflects the wide range of experiences and cultures amongst the network’s members. The advisory group is made up of six members all from different film festivals/venues across Wales and aims to be representative of the larger member experiences and backgrounds. Ffilm Ifanc aim to be a diverse group of young people who programme an eclectic and accessible range of films representing diverse on-screen representation. WYFN and Ffilm Ifanc champion the Welsh language and where possible offer translated marketing materials and subtitles on trailers and film introductions.
Network membership is diverse and films recommended to the network for young audiences are often aimed at reducing on screen under representation. Films recommended are often the same ones which the BFI FAN Young Consultants support through their marketing packs. Ffilm Ifanc membership is diverse with members identifying as disabled, LGBTQ+ and all are currently 26 or under. Wales as a whole contains some of the most socially deprived wards in the UK and WYFN and Ffilm Ifanc are keen to work within these areas, offering mentoring to any young person that would benefit from peer to peer support and guidance. If funding is available, Ffilm Ifanc are aiming to caption all of their forthcoming screening programmes.
Knowledge & Experience
WYFN is able to promote members film festivals, screenings and events to young audiences and flag up the opportunities that exist within film exhibition for young people as audiences, makers and employees. Being part of Ffilm Ifanc has been inspirational for the young members. In the space of 12 months they have learnt a whole range of new skills from film programming to fundraising and from event management to marketing. One member of the group is now thinking of applying to university to study film production and/or film programming and is very interested in a career in film programming. Another member gained some paid employment after someone saw that she was responsible for Ffilm Ifanc’s social media and other members of the group have got paid work programming sessions and films for film festivals in Wales.
WYFN and Ffilm Ifanc are all about inspiring creativity and raising aspirations. A recent collaboration between Ffilm Ifanc, Pontio cinema in Bangor and Off Y Grid saw over 80 people attend a screening of Made in Wales short films with Q&As and introductions. This event was inspirational, “I loved walking around and talking to the organisers and some of the filmmakers – being inspired as an audience member rather than as someone in charge. It felt young, it felt different” Emyr Williams, Programmer Pontio Cinema. Ffilm Ifanc has made good connections with local universities and has been able to screen final degree films as part of their showcases. This nurturing connection gives new graduates a lifeline and helps them to know that there is support for new talent available outside of university.
For more information: Young People and Independent Cinema (wickedwales.com)
Belonging to networks and likeminded groups engenders a feeling of belonging and reduces a sense of isolation, this can be particularly prevalent amongst freelance workers and those working from home. WYFN, the advisory group and Ffilm Ifanc all work to establish a feeling of togetherness through regular meetings, email correspondence and in Ffilm Ifanc’s case, a much used WhatsApp group. Members of Ffilm Ifanc have also met in person, and this is something that they wish to do more of. They also want to develop more social opportunities for them as a group of young people which can also be extended to other young people who may wish to get involved.
WYFN has been successful in bringing people together, especially as the network has taken off over the course of the Pandemic. The network has provided a space for connection and collaboration, which is important for a feeling of wellbeing, as work of this nature can often be isolating and it is important to be able to connect with others who are experiencing similar issues. The opportunity to take part in training and upskilling sessions is also beneficial as learning new skills can be a mood enhancer. Feedback from members of the WYFN advisory group has been very positive and membership of this smaller network seems to also be very beneficial.
WYFN and Ffilm Ifanc both give high importance to ongoing training and CPD, recognising the importance of developing the exhibition economy with a skilled workforce. Guest speakers from within the industry are regularly invited to lead sessions, aiming to help equip members with new knowledge and skills, sessions have taken place on fundraising, using social media effectively to reach a young audience, sliding scale ticketing models and eventising. Ffilm Ifanc, as young Wales wide programmers, are operating within quite a unique space, delivering innovative programming and championing films made in Wales by young people. A key element of the Ffilm Ifanc project is that members have the opportunity to learn from other young film exhibition industry professionals, and this experience, coupled with the day to day lived experience of programming and curating screenings and packages, has already resulted in members of the group being offered paid opportunities to work as programmers for some of the Wales based film festivals. Ffilm Ifanc are committed to the Made in Wales brand and recognise the importance of giving young filmmakers from Wales the opportunity to have their work screened. This in turn helps to create a film culture which provides pathways and opportunities for young filmmakers wishing to progress their careers, in turn helping to support the creative industries economy.
What audiences said
"It was amazing to see a festival of such a high standard and with such a sense of community in the middle of the Pandemic" (audience member: Three Films Festival)
"I found the talk very interesting and valuable, we are already talking about how we can use video walk throughs of venues to improve our approach to accessibility"
What professionals, press and partners said
“It’s always helpful to connect with people working in the same field as you and even better when it’s on a focused audience target.”
"I really do enjoy the meetings and it's a good insight"
"We are very excited to be part of this year's Young Film tour, an important part of the young makers journey is to test audience response to the work"
"Events like the Ffilm Ifanc team have curated here are so important for the culture and creative growth of Wales.... to be part of something like this fills my heart with pride, and I am extremely grateful to have my work professionally presented to new audiences around the country".
"while Wales isn't necessarily known for its cinema or filmmaking, things are about to change. A group of young talented filmmakers and creatives have come together to find and screen films created by the talent pool of the young artists
Wales has to offer" (Movie Marker)
"In response to the Covid Pandemic, WYFN engaged in the Three Film Festival to bring festivals together in these difficult times" (European Children's Film Association Journal)
"Ffilm Ifanc is giving a voice to the young people of Wales, making them a part of the growing film and media landscape that Wales is forming". (Blazing Minds)