Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Panel: From The Margins To The Centre

Panelists; Chair - Dr Peter Packer  (right) Strategy adviser Uk Film Council and founder of the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival; Rachel Millward (left), Director - Birds Eye Film Festival; Lois Savy (middle left), Director Sci-Fi London Film Festival and Robin Baker (middle right), head archiver & programme director, BFI Mediatheque.

Right to left: Peter Packer, Robin Baker, Lois Savy, Rachel Millward.


The panel is to explore how niche festivals and film product can attract wide audiences and come into more mainstream public view.

Chair Peter Packer began by referring to the report "Towards a wider dissemination...Black Film Conent'.

Setting the context for the discussion, Peter highlighted three overarching ideas:

1. Knowledge & focus on the programme itself - 'know your films intimately, their context and wider relevance'
2. Marketing to your niche - working towards 'ownership' by your audience, networking.
3. The 'User Experience' - the experience of the audience: being interactive and participatory.

Robin Baker began by giving an overview of the BFI's Mediatheque, it's role for archiving British Film & TV and it's resources available both to audiences/the general public interested in film, but also film-makers and festivals.
Highlighted, as an example, a collection called 'Black Britain' which set out to collate and archive British Black film. 
Referred to the Mitchell & Kenyon films, archived by BFI - fascinating early films from 1900, showing everyday British life and talked about how they invited the public to come into BFI to view, comment, document and add (via video, written and oral recording) their own memories to build up the body of knowledge and thoughts around the films - creating a wider ownership , deeper, more personal experience and critical debate.

Robin encouraged the group to contact BFI about their archive library of films and footage, much of which is available for festivals, film-projects and research.
Also available for use on websites, often for free.
See an example of a BFI archived film, digitised and posted to Youtube below:

Rachel made an interesting point about how they (Bird's Eye festival) went after 'big name' patrons as deliberate strategy to raise profile, combined with creating a media freindly story about the festival in order to develop significant and wide public interest/appeal.
They have struck a good balance between serious and accessible programming and public image to attract a wide audience.
Also talked about how they aligned their festival with collaborating associated events such as running a 'Women in comedy' film programme alongside live comedy events, presentations by well known Women comedienes and International Women's week; therefore exponentially increasing awareness, cross-fertilise audiences and enhance/widen the audience experience.
See the trailer shown by Rachel below:

Lois Savy talked about how the London Sci-Fi Film Festival is primarily focused on entertaining; so the the marketing message is 'you will be entertained first', not necessarily focused on a thematical message other than the context of the Sci-Fi genre and it is this that has proved to be successful for them.

"Content, Context and Consistency is the Key.....How do you speak to your audience"

"How do you create a buzz....making the screening an 'event" Eg Robin's example of 'Sing a Long Sound of Music' participatory screening.

Rachel made an excellent point about 'year round association' in order to help you secure access to films/film-makers and raising and embedding your brand. I.e. a strategy of constantly communicating and promoting your work, constantly being in touch with your audience and the sector.

"Newsletters, competitions, website updates, RSS feeds and year round regular screenings outside the main festival"

Lois: "the reason we get commercial sponsorship is because we treat the screenings like events and heavily brand the on-site activity as well as marketing"

"Use your volunteers/monitoring to capture the RIGHT info that will help you sponorship case: How did they find out about us, how did you get here, which sponsors did they notice, what did you buy".

"Think about incentives like Goody bags"

"Build up trust with your audience"

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