How does Film Policy Support the Development of Audiences for Specialised Film in English Regions?

What are the key policies that support audience development?

Over the last decade, the BFI have had two key strategies that offer support for specialised film audience development – Film Forever (2012-2017) and BFI 2022 (2017-2022). Priorities in these policies include supporting new releases and developing regional audiences, young audiences, and diverse audiences.

How have these policies been developed and why?

These policies were influenced by the independent Film Policy Review Panel, which published the report ‘A Future for British Film: ‘It begins with the audience…’ in 2012, and through consultation with the independent film sector.

What is the film policy timeline that underpins audience development policy?

One key initiative that underpins audience development policy and has grown over the last decade is the BFI’s Film Audience Network, a group of regional and national hubs created to support local film exhibitors. Initiated as part of the BFI’s ‘Film Forever’ strategy, funding for the region’s Film Hubs was expanded in the 2020 and they were given more responsibility by the BFI. See a full outline of policy developments over this period.

Who are the key policy makers developing film policy at national and regional level?

Nationally, film policy is influenced by government departments such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and HM Treasury, particularly in terms of tax relief, the largest investment the UK government makes in the film sector. Since the closure of the UK Film Council in 2010, the BFI has been the lead agency for film policy and strategy in the UK. Film policy is also influenced by organisations such as the UK Cinema Association, The Film Distributors’ Association, and Arts Council England. Sector support agencies such as the Independent Cinema Office, INTO Film and Cinema for All also seek to shape the strategies for specific areas of film exhibition such as schools, education and film societies. In the regions, individual independent cinemas such as the Showroom in Sheffield and Watershed in Bristol are the most influential organisations.

What is the role of programming and marketing in developing audiences?

Both are essential in developing new audiences for specialised film and fostering a diverse film culture. Programming shapes which films audiences can see and marketing enables those films to reach new audiences. The process of audience development aims to create future audiences by changing marketing or programming. Independent cinemas, film festivals and online platforms utilise this approach to think about growing their audiences in ways that are not just about financial income. In addition to considering the size of the audience, this approach considers the demographic composition of the audience, for example, how to approach reaching a new young or diverse audience, priorities for the BFI