Assess what you’re doing at the moment. Do you offer any screenings specifically designed to appeal to younger audiences? If not, what need is there locally? What schools are nearby?
Think about your marketing. Are kids’ films highlighted on your website and in your brochure? Will your film copy appeal to children and/or their parents? Are the certificates clearly marked?
Look at what other venues are doing and learn from their kids’ film strands, workshops and events. Here are some examples: Watershed’s Cinkids, Showroom’s Saturday Club, National Media Museum’s Family Film Fundays, Curzon Community Cinema’s Curzon Kids.
Check out the programmes of recent children’s film festivals, or those with children’s film strands, such as Framed Film Festival, Showcomotion, Leeds Young People’s Film Festival, Glasgow Youth Film Festival, Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, Discovery Film Festival, Bradford Animation Festival, or make plans to attend their next editions.
Think about other ways to engage with kids. Perhaps you could encourage budding critics by inviting them to review films for your website like QUAD’s Youth Review, or run filmmaking workshops like mac’s First Fright event this autumn, or get children involved in choosing the films they want to see like MediaFish, a cooperative of young people based in Leeds who programme their own season of film screenings. Consider bringing groups of children into your venue for a tour, to introduce them to the space and get them interested in what goes on behind the scenes in box office, projection, publicity.
And, get them young! Get children into the habit of coming to the cinema (and parents into the habit of bringing them) from as early as possible by putting on regular mum and baby screenings, like Broadway’s bi-monthly Bringing Up Baby events (reviewed here). Make your venue as family-friendly and welcoming as possible – ensure your publicity materials clearly state that at mum and baby screenings, the lights will be dimmed but not off, and that it’s expected that babies will cry and small children will be noisy and run around. Institute safeguarding procedures for children’s events so adults aren’t allowed in without a child, and get CRB checks for all relevant staff. Think about access for prams and buggies, about your baby changing facilities, and ensure your box office staff like kids!
When programming for toddlers, think about keeping it brief, as small children may not have the patience for feature length film! Look for short film programmes – animation is good, and dialogue can be minimal. The BFI catalogue is a good place to start, for animation in particular; also, look at short film festivals (like Encounters) for ideas. Explore the possibility of screening popular TV programmes: for example, cinemas successfully screened In The Night Garden episodes in 2009.
Generally, plan to keep kids coming back from infancy to teenagerdom, like Filmhouse.
Think of ways to pitch subtitles – for example, you could pitch subtitled screenings to parents as an innovative way of helping their kids learn to read, or you could work with foreign language teachers to create educational screenings for their students in specific languages, like Cornerhouse’s sessions on Last Train Home (Mandarin) and Barbara (German).
Start or foster relationships with local schools. Keep in mind that teachers are busy, so make it easy for them: pitch screenings, activities and takeaway materials that will tick off key curriculum requirements.
Visit our film education page, which offers advice on starting an education programme and working with schools, as well as videos of film education experts discussing their work at a recent ICO course.
Explore the work of Filmclub, the education charity that works with schools nationwide to encourage young people’s involvement in film. Their excellent website is full of resources including this list of films grouped by suitability for particular ages, as well as a full catalogue that you can filter by suitability, length, style, decade, language, location and more.
Similarly Film Education, another charity that promotes and supports the use of film within the curriculum, and has a website full of resources such as film clips, study guides, Teacher’s Notes and activity ideas for specific stages in primary, secondary and further education; as well as a complete film library. They also run National Schools Film Week, the world’s largest free film festival for cinemas and schools – encourage local schools to get involved.
Get involved with MovIES, the network for moving image education specialists working in UK film exhibition, which shares good practice, launches initiatives and connects you with national and local peers.
Film Street aims to help introduce young people to the world of film, using filmmaking as a tool. Their website includes downloadable resources for teachers, including templates for workshops and activities.
And for more insight into current thinking and policy, look at Film: 21st Century Literacy and the Findings section of their website, which includes documents setting out the case for using film in education as well as specific case studies.
A couple of other resources: The 8 1/2 Foundation, founded by Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousins, which is dedicated to introducing children to world cinema, has a lovely list of films – old and new – they recommend for children. For an insight on classic film titles that appeal to kids, have a look at this page on the BAFTA Kids’ Vote website. In 2005 the BFI issued a list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14, find it here. To learn more about the classification of children’s films, listen to this podcast by the BBFC – and, have a look at the Coming Soon and Just Out sections of Parents BBFC, highlighting new releases with U, PG, 12 or 12A certs.
Most importantly, whatever films and acitivites you put on, make them fun, and always retain a sense of humour… to misappropriate a Roald Dahl quote: