How to establish a community cinema or film club
Katy Limmer from Crewkerne's Screen in the Square explains how the group has developed:
'Screen in the Square started at a meeting called by Crewkerne Town Council for people interested in establishing a film club in the town. Although the council were keen to see such a facility in Crewkerne (and also wanted to encourage more use and thus more rent from their town hall) they wanted it to be lead by an independent group, not least because we would then be able to apply for grants and funds not available to councils. They facilitated that first meeting but then stepped back.
After good advice from members of other local film clubs at that first meeting our next step was to contact the South West division of the British Federation of Film Societies who were extremely helpful and constructive. So at our next meeting we arranged for one of their members, Paul Shilling, to visit us. He brought the projection equipment that they had to help new societies with him and saw whether it would work in the hall. He also explained how film societies work and gave us a good idea of the organisation needed.
Paul Shilling agreed to help us put on a test show so we could gauge the local interest and see whether the venue would work. After concerted marketing, including press releases and leafleting, our first show in April 2004 of The Girl with a Pearl Earring was a sell-out, as was our showing of Touching the Void in June, so we decided to go ahead and start a film club, booking a season of films and recruiting members. In order to be more flexible and user friendly we offer two mini-seasons of four films a year, which runs from Sept. – April, rather than having people pay for the entire season in one go, this also allows us to book more recent films if we don’t have to choose them all in September.
Applying for grants
We also successfully applied to the UK Film Council’s digital fund for our own projector and screen which meant in December ’04, we stopped relying on borrowing BFFS South West’s equipment and could project ourselves. In 2007 we also were successful in a grant application to Awards for All to improve our sound system. Applying for grants can be very time-consuming but we found if you can create a strong case you stand a better chance. We’ve also successfully applied for smaller amounts from the co-operative community fund and the town council.
From very early on we formed a core of dedicated helpers who have marketed the films, including leafleting and putting up posters, and run the actual shows. We had a formal rota to begin with but over time people have found the jobs they enjoy the most. We keep ourselves motivated with a special film show with food at the end of each season. We don’t meet very formally or regularly although for the sake of grant awarding bodies we do have to go through certain motions.
We have established a regular and loyal audience over the four years we’ve run, which swells for certain films and at certain times of the year. We are still looking for ways to improve our facilities especially the seating.
As a not-for-profit organisation any money we make above the break-even point goes into savings, which is very important when you rely on such expensive equipment. We aim to have enough money saved to replace the equipment if necessary.
Although we are legally and constitutionally a film club, which allows us to show films at a flat rate to the distributor rather than paying a percentage of the box office, the term community cinema describes best what we do. As well as the regular film seasons of quality British, American and world cinema, we also arrange children’s film shows and joint shows with various local organisations; including the cricket club, museum and local schools. We have also lent our equipment to other fledgling film clubs to help them get started.'
See an example of SITS excellent marketing here SITS Feb-May07