Why the project matters
The pilot challenges barriers to cinema and film faced by wider communities, and takes a bespoke approach to meeting needs which heighten the barriers during COVID. It ensures that during a time of desperation for survival in the exhibition industry, that already marginalised communities do not continue to be neglected.
To distribute films by women to excluded communities in London by covering the cost of films and shaping events around the community’s needs.
Our mission is to make BEV supported films available to members of vulnerable communities during COVID-19 in particular those seeking shelter from domestic violence, and the socially isolated, including those with a disability or mental illness. This is to both make cinema and films available to marginalised communities across London but to also serve as an inspiration for aspiring creatives from those communities. Flexibility and working closely with community leaders and organisations is key to ensure that the BEV community response meets the needs of excluded and vulnerable communities during COVID. The project was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, distributed by City Bridge Trust.
November 2020 – June 2021
So far, we have reached over 1000 people. Some recipients have had an ongoing relationship with us where they are in receipt of support and films on a monthly basis, others have been part of one off events.
During the first month we researched and started conversations with a wide range of groups across London, including: community groups, arts organisations, shelters, borough councils and university unions. Through the grant we have been able to support these organisations and their COVID response. Offering the disadvantaged and excluded communities they serve the opportunity to overcome isolation, swatch empowering films for free, while removing barriers to access during a particularly precarious situation.
We have had 110 individual responses, and in cases where the individual was not able to fill out a survey we have had 8 organisations respond on behalf of over 300 people.
From the individual responses we found that over 90% of recipients hadn’t engaged with a Reclaim The Frame activity before. 83% expressed that the initiative had given them the opportunity to watch a film they wouldn’t have watched without the initiative. When we asked about barriers 88% said that cost was the main barrier, 25% had carer responsibilities which made it more difficult, and 66% said that they didn’t have prior knowledge about the films we were supporting.
We continued to work with an already established RTF community and have since November 2020 developed at least 35 new partnerships. Partnerships include community groups who find comfort and magic in the cinema experience and collectives who work with emerging voices in the film industry and who often offer training and opportunities as part of their work. Partners include but are not limited to:
UNDR LNDN , Arts Emergency, Diamond Club and TTT, YMCA Crouch End, Welcome Presents, Caramel Club, Renaissance Studios, Barbican Young Programmers, Asian Mahila Association, LesFlicks, Baytree Centre, Iconic Steps, Global Girls and Home Girls Unite
Number of activities/events
45 activities were curated (excluding public and individual cinema purchases)
- Christmas DVD distribution; distributed 70 DVDs to the YMCA in Crouch End and Diamond Club which aims to tackle isolation for older people with weekly meetups who have all their social activities cancelled.
- As part of Renaissance’s CRTV CLNC ; a new, creative and personal development scheme for 18-34-year-olds. We contribute to their care packages with ‘Golden Tickets’ on a monthly basis. This included circulating digital access to new films during the strictest lockdowns and purchasing cinema tickets for
- On The Record Q&A; hosted a safe space for Black womxn to discuss the film and their experiences after purchasing ‘tickets’ and a general Q&A with the filmmakers and main subject of the film.
- Misbehaviour Q&A; we opened up the industry Q&A to communities who would benefit from watching it by circulating a recorded and captioned version to recipients of free passes to watch Misbehaviour.
- UNDRLND Creative Care Bags: as part of their creative care packages distributed from Genesis Cinema for Christmas we contributed with DVDs. All recipients were aged 18-25 and identified as being affected by physical or mental health problems or a disability which has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months.
- Social Media takeovers; An added activity to increase engagement with films by women and to support film collectives in London we offered weekly takeover of our social media channels to community organisations to raise their platform.
- London Short Film Festival; distributed 16 passes to emerging filmmakers and curators who would otherwise not have accessed the festival.
- Organised two outdoor screenings of Rocks, free entry to Lewisham community in collaboration with The Albany.
- Distributed 160 DVD + snack parcels with Vauxhall Foodbank
- Collaborated with Albany Connects to deliver film passes and snacks.
- Organised tickets to watch Lift Like A Girl for Asra – a group of young muslim women who engage in exercise in safe spaces.
- Community online screening of Poly Styrene: I am a cliche with Home Girls Unite – a support group for eldest immigrant daughters.
Support has varied from individual costs of £4 for a DVD to complete private hires and cinema events.
Obstacles and Barriers
Unfortunately, some of our planned activities were for excluded communities to be able to visit the cinema. Then with the November lockdown, all were cancelled. This means our entire focus shifted to online and DVD delivery for the first 5 months. This impacted the numbers as not everyone in the vulnerable groups we are targeting has access to broadband or a DVD player, and some organisations are working with very urgent needs, overwhelmed and unable to engage with new partnerships. The costs were also significantly changed as home ent was cheaper, but harder to get people to engage with we had a few months where our target spend wasn’t reached.
There is also the question of the capacity of community organisations to engage in conversation support with communication. There have been many unpredictable changes and we have found that a conversation has been ongoing for a long time, and unpredictable changes to restrictions and access to venues and equipment. During this period cinemas were only consistently open from the 17th May until now, with restrictions in place. These restrictions made it harder for community groups to attend cinemas. Many groups still face obstacles, for eg. we found that neurodiverse recipients are more likely to engage with familiar material at home instead of watching a new film in a cinema with restrictions.
Scale Up Strategy
The pilot initiative has involved a lot of individual conversations with community leaders and members to gauge interest, needs, best approach, comms and logistics.
All this information feeds into how we shape the programme moving forward, and how to both scale it up to an ongoing initiative and roll it out to other regions in the UK. The idea is to work with key community partners in each city, to include the partner cinemas as part of the initiative, and to work closely with an ambassador who will manage outreach and budget for RTF supported titles. The COVID Community Fund has created two new temporary part-time roles.
The key to its success and for a meaningful impact really has been to be able to have focused conversations to get a better understanding of the actual needs – and recognising what works and what doesn’t.