Thursday, April 4, 2013

Winchester Film Festival - Interview

The Winchester Film Festival is a small programme of films being screened in interesting locations - for example a war film being played in the Army cadet HQ, a horror film being shown in a railway tunnel.  I asked the organiser Christian Francis a number of questions about the showings:
What inspired the Winchester Film Festival?  Are there any other festivals that have similar programmes?
There was no direct inspiration for the Film Festival per se. The School of Film & Media always ran an internal student film festival, but within the myriad of festivals Winchester has, none are film based. So we saw the opportunity to give something to the community. But this is not for profit or monetary gain, as each year we donate all proceeds of ticket sales to a nominated local charity.
When we started there were no UK festivals which utilize innovative and matching locations to the films. But since a couple have sprung up, which have even copied some of our programming (Which is a great compliment.)
What role do you think small festivals play in the local community?
I think small and large festivals play a huge part in the community. Any festival has the facility to increase tourism to the city, provide something different for the community to experience, and for us, allows us to raise awareness on our nominated local charity which may be new to the audience.

How does the festival link with the film courses at the university? 
The festival is run by the School of Film & Media, and students help us tech the events, write the copy for the brochure and website etc. We have , in previous years, had students usher at the events and even had a student competition which we encouraged Winchester students to enter, at no cost. But we never had big enough uptake to enable it to run yearly.
Did the locations chose the films or did the films chose the locations?
Every year the locations choose the films, the locations are always scouted and chosen with no idea of what we could programme. We try to stick to classics and independent films as much as possible, but we are lucky that the venues in the area are very characteristic and enhance a wide choice of films. Of course with a small city, there are only a limited amount of venues, so we try to use them in as exciting ways as we can.
How do you go about marketing the films?

Winchester doesn’t have a great way to market, with only one commercial billboard, so we rely on past customer experience, social media and leaflet drops. In the past we have advertised in papers, magazines television etc, but honestly it made little difference.
Do you have a target audience in mind?
Over the years we have found that students do not attend even when screenings are targeted for them. Last year we were going to have a 24hr Zombiethon in the union as a fundraiser event. We sold 2 tickets. So had to cancel. We did sell out when we invited Matt Berry (The It Crowd, Darkplace, Mighty Boosh) down for a Q&A, but that was a one off. Even our Rocky Horror screening at the Theatre Royal was not a big seller to students! So we have learnt, for the best success, to aim our films at an older age range, to stick to the older classic films. We have proven this the winning formula by selling out most of our screenings. This year with trying a couple of screenings in Eastleigh, we are starting from scratch. A different city is a whole new prospect, so we have tried more commercial films this year. We shall see if this works – if not we shall try something new! We are always looking for ways to improve to give the audience what they want – We think for Winchester we have discovered exactly what that is!
What are the future plans for the Winchester Film Festival?
We have had some amazing venues planned over the years, which unfortunately due to the business or person involved not being interested, have never materialised  We hope that as the festival grows to the point where any business we approach know about us and are excited to get involved. Being only 5 years old though we are still building a reputation, maybe in a few more years! Other than that we are hoping to expand, we are testing Eastleigh out as a location this year, and maybe next year will become a lot bigger!

Many thanks to Christian Francis for his time
for more information please visit the website

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