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News and views on the world of independent film

Posts in Training & Conferences

Round up: Cultural Cinema Exhibition 2017

Posted Thursday 30 March 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, Training & Conferences

CCE 2017

After 8 days jam-packed with films both old and new, panels, presentations, discussions and workshops, we wrapped up our flagship training course, Cultural Cinema Exhibition, earlier this month.

We've brought together all of the news and learning points from across the week, touching on everything from PR to inclusion to programming in all its forms, be it specialist, curatorial or commercial. If you're a budding film exhibitor or interested in expanding your offer, this is a great place to start.   

Ask a #DYFFexpert with Wendy Mitchell

Posted Thursday 23 March 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, Training & Conferences


Last week we were joined by Wendy Mitchell, Contributing Editor at Screen International, for a live Twitter Q&A on how you can ensure your film festival is as press-friendly as possible to really boost its reputation. In case you missed it, we've gathered together all her great insights from the session below. Wendy will be joining us again as a speaker at this year's Developing Your Film Festival, our intensive training programme for film festival professionals, taking place in Edinburgh from 19 - 24 June 2017 alongside this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Applications for DYFF are open until 24 April 2017.

10 ways data can change the way you run your cinema

Posted Thursday 26 January 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, Training & Conferences

data dashboards

Last week we had the pleasure of working with independent cultural consultant Sarah Boiling, on our Data-driven Marketing course up in Leeds. After four days of talking engagement and analytics, we've some up some of the key learnings with ten tips to get you started using data to drive your marketing strategy.

1. Is your data useful or just interesting?

There is no shortage of data – download any analytics report and you’ll see just how many Excel columns it can occupy – but not all this data is useful; in fact a lot of it isn’t. When analysing your current data or thinking about the data you want to collect, it’s important to remember this and ask yourself: will this data lead to a practical insight? All of our speakers spoke of the centrality of this idea in their own data-driven marketing strategy.

data ladder

2. Context is key

Getting your own useful data is only part of the picture. What does an open rate figure mean if you’ve got nothing to compare it to? Before you start a campaign set aside some time for desk research as well as analysing your own data. There’s a wealth of secondary data available to help you understand your context, from free resources such as the BFI’s weekly box office figures and Statistical Yearbook or statistics on your region from the Office of National Statistics to paid insights about arts engagement in your local area such as an Area Profile Report from the Audience Agency.

3. Get your data upfront

You may be hesitant to ask for too much data too quickly, but people are at their most willing to engage when they sign up, so ask then as it’s much harder to do it later! If you’re wondering how to ask your existing audience, maybe there’s a membership scheme or film club model that could work for your organisation. Try signing up with other cinemas and arts organisations to see what data they’re collecting and whether any of that could work for you. If you really can’t ask much, then, as Sarah Leuthwaite from Movio (and Mark from Bristol Museums and JP from Picturehouses) says, the best bit of data you can get from your customer is their postcode. The rest you can build from there, with a combination of desk research on the area and the knowledge you gain from their transactions.

4. Get acquainted with Google Analytics

It’s tempting on any analytics programme to look straight to the commonly used metrics they lay out, citing numbers without gaining any real insight. Google Analytics is no different, offering metrics such as Bounce rate, Time on Site and Site-wide Averages, but there are much greater insights on offer if you dig a little deeper. From event and campaign tracking to setting goals, Google Analytics can provide the data you need to back up your hunch or challenge the ways you’ve been thinking your audience engages with your site. There are a number of great free resources to help you get to grips with Google Analytics: Analytics Academy’s Digital FundamentalsAnnielytics’s Guide to Campaign Tagging and Koozai’s Event tracking guide.

5. Put the time in: segmentation is your friend

It can take some time to segment your audience, but it pays off. JP from Picturehouses explained demonstrated how their goal of sending more targetted email campaigns and less blanket emails, led to a drastic increase in open rates and click throughs.

There are four broad ways in which you can segment your audience: demographically, geographically, behaviourally and attitudinally. Each of these can be useful, but behaviour and attitude give the most away about how, when and with what method your audience likes to be contacted.There are a number of models of segmentation. Dan Cowley from The Audience Agency talked us through their model, the Audience Spectrum, in which the UK’s population is divided into ten segments reflecting their habits and preferences. You can find out more about the Audience Spectrum here.

6. Don’t fear a data cleanse

It can be daunting to see your subscriber list drop so drastically in numbers, but it’s worth checking in on those people who’ve stopped opening your emails. Beyond being good practice and keeping down the number of unhappy subscribers, a data cleanse helps you truly see what’s working for your audience when you try a new slant or message through A/B testing.

7. Automate where you can

There are simple ways to maintain non-invasive contact with your audiences. Set up automated messages of thanks for bookings, or celebrate their loyalty by recognising membership anniversaries.

8. Data doesn’t always mean digital

It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, e-newsletter… but data can help you take informed risks in other styles of marketing. Faith Taylor from eOne spoke to us of their approach to marketing I, Daniel Blake. Given the lack of similar films, they started cold, analysing who interacted with the trailer through Facebook and how, which led to investing in grassroots marketing in areas of high engagement and a campaign that celebrated the thought-provoking content of the film.

data discussion

9. Communicate!

One of the biggest takeaways from this course was the need for better communication, internally and externally, and the role data can play in fostering it. Four key areas where data could help:

  • Between your organisation and your audience: it goes without saying that data lets you know how, when and with what content your audience likes to be contacted.

  • Within your organisation: dashboards can help create easy visuals around your data to show your colleagues what’s working and what’s not.

  • Between exhibitors: take a leaf from the theatrical world and start sharing your findings with other independent exhibitors, learn about shared problems and triumphs so you can recognise your own

  • Between exhibitors and distributors: we share the same goal; get people to see more independent film!

10. Start small and learn as you go

The data maturity levels - we’re all aiming for Level 3 but it takes time!

It’s tempting to believe ‘We don’t have the resources for a proper data strategy’ and it’s often true that you’re already pressed for time, but it’s not the case of a complete overhaul and heavy financial investment. Start small, do some A/B testing on your next social campaign and e-newsletters, or follow one campaign through on Google Analytics. Little by little you’ll work out what data and platforms work for you.

Looking for more insights around data? There are a number of great newsletters you can sign up to, here’s a handful we’d recommend: Katie Moffatt’s Digital Snapshot, Stephen Follows, Chris Unitt's Cultural Digital.

FEDS 2016: Krushil's experience with Glasgow Film Theatre

Posted Wednesday 21 December 2016 by Ellen Reay in FEDS scheme, Training & Conferences


We spoke to Krushil Patel, one of 2016's FEDS trainees, about what he learned during his time with Glasgow Film Theatre and what advice he'd give to those wanting to get started in film exhibition. Krushil is now a full time member of staff, having been hired by his host company straight out of the scheme. To find out more about FEDS and to apply click here. The deadline is 3 January!

My placement was at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), an independent cinema at the centre of Glasgow. As a Programme Assistant, I was able to get an excellent overview of the nuts and bolts of programming at an independent cinema.  As part of my placement, I was able to assist with ideas and selection advice to the wider programming team; research rights and print sources; write copy and proof read; and assist with planning and execution of specialised events. After the placement, I was offered the position Programme & Events Assistant with the Glasgow Film Festival.

What are the experiences you most enjoyed while working at GFT?

Working at the GFT, firstly as part of the programming team and now as part of the film festival, has been a very insightful and rewarding experience. The first few months started off a little slow as Glasgow Film Festival 2016 had just finished, and so it was a massive drop off period for the staff. At the time it was a little frustrating as I was itching to get stuck in, but in hindsight it was probably a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to get used to a new city, accommodate to my new surroundings and settle into a new working environment. By May, things began to pick up and I was into the full swing of things. My placement occurred at an interesting time, with the biggest screen (around 400 seats) being closed due to refurbishments in the cinema and the GFT launching its new website over the summer.    

Over this period, being able to work across different areas of programming and seeing how the various elements combined to put together a monthly programme was, in itself, a thoroughly valuable and enjoyable experience, one that reinforced my desire to work in film programming.

But if I had to go with one particular highlight, it was attending Gdynia Film Festival in September to identify potential films for Glasgow Film Festival. It was the first time I had gone to a film festival as a guest, wearing my work hat, and it was a fabulous experience. Through this I was able to learn a little about Polish cinema and to use the knowledge and understanding I had developed about GFT audiences to identify quality and interesting films that would work for Glasgow Film Festival. I always thought there would be nothing better than getting to watch films for work, and although viewing four films a day with little breaks was quite tiring, it's still something I would love to do again.

Image result for it's a wonderful life
It's a Wonderful Life is one of GFT's annual bestsellers.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to break into working in exhibition?

Getting your foot in the door

One of the key things I learnt from my placement was that the film industry is a small world and everyone seems to know everyone. To some extent, from the outside it had always seemed like this, but having spent a good stretch of time in the industry, it was reinforced and this always felt like a barrier, especially coming from a non-film background. When roles need to be filled quickly it’s easier to opt for someone who’s recommended to you. 

So how can you make your way and get your name out there? Unfortunately there aren’t enough schemes like FEDS, especially ones that pay and allow you to support yourself, so you may have to look into other options. My first steps into the film industry came through volunteering at a small film festival. This was an invaluable experience that allowed me to see the inner workings of a film festival, while keeping a part-time job. Volunteering at a smaller film festival can allow you to do more than just ushering duties, so you can get to grips with the nitty-gritty side of film festivals, which can be useful for the future.

Building relationships is essential

Once you’re in, building and maintaining relationships is paramount. With the film world being so small, you’re bound to bump into familiar faces. Often you will be dealing with many of the same people, whether it’s distributors, other venues, programmers or individual organisations. Contracts are usually temporary and job-hopping may be the only way early on, so maintaining these relationships will allow you to discover opportunities earlier and make you more likely to be recommended for openings elsewhere. However, beyond the opportunities it can afford you in the future, it will make your life easier in the workplace.

Trying to be Flexible

I moved from London to Glasgow for the FEDS placement. This was a big move but one that I definitely feel has paid off. Only after moving did I realise that being able to move around, especially when starting out, is key, affording you more opportunities to work throughout the UK and abroad. Of course, this is not something everyone can do, but it has been a huge benefit to get away from the London bubble and realise that there are good opportunities outside of London!

Opportunities a-plenty

There are various aspects to working at an independent cinema. If programming is not your thing, then there is finance, marketing, front of house, projection or events and all the departments that exist within a cinema environment. My biggest take-away from the placement was how close together all these departments work to allow for the smooth running of a cinema.   

If you're a talented person of colour or someone who considers themselves disabled, we are looking for people like you to apply for FEDS. Click here to find out more and apply.


This is the official blog for the Independent Cinema Office, the national organisation for the development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK.


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