What's your story and how do you tell it? Day 1 at TWU17

Speakers: Hugh Odling-Smee, Sara Gunn-Smith, Aaron Guthrie, Andi Jarvis 

Film Hub Northern Ireland presented a case study using five small cinemas to demonstrate the ways in which cinemas can set their identity and engage their audiences. At the start of the event, audience members were asked to write two sentences that described the identity of their venue or freelance work, as a means to demonstrate a starting point for thinking about how venues and community cinemas can market themselves by developing a sense of identity and gaining an understanding who their audience is.

Three case studies were discussed at length: the Black Moon Film Club, whose pitch began with a discussion around accessibility, as they wanted to be a film club for adults with learning disabilities. The second case was of Ballyclare Picturehouse, a small cinema in a rural community, who with the help of marketing training,  were able to use their rural identity in how they present themselves to their audience. 

The last case that was discussed was that of the New Notions collective, a documentary screening group. They began with very small screenings but eventually went on to put up an exhibition of original short films and archive footage about the Belfast shipyard and its workers and community, as well as live storytelling sessions. The New Notions screenings and events are free with a pay-as-you-can option, which Aaron Guthrie explained was actually beneficial to them because it invited audiences that could not afford to pay for a ticket to see, and it invited those who could pay to give however much money they could afford. 

What became clear from the panellists was that with a limited budget,  marketing teams in community lead projects need to work with the communities they are trying to be effective. It is important to help build confidence in small film communities in their work, because, as Andi Jarvis highlighted, a lot of groups tend not to apply for funding for fear of not understanding the application process.  With the support these small cinemas received, they were able to gain a clearer sense of identity and became more effective in engaging their audiences.