How to Organise a Successful Film Screening Event
Over the years I have organised a lot of arts, business and film screening events, big and small. Some have had Cabinet level politicians, industry leaders and FTSE 100 execs; others have had local mayors and community leaders. Some have focused on industry and business, others on art, dance drama and fashion. The biggest venues have been the National Gallery, for a youth arts party, Trafalgar Square and the Science Museum. Film screening events have been at the BFI in London, the Cornerhouse Cinema in Manchester, and the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast. Every event has its own challenges. So this is a checklist that I use that I hope you find useful.
1. Why have an event?
The first rule of any event is to be clear as to why you are having it. What is the main message of the event? To whom is that message targeted? What do you want them to do when they leave? How do you want them to feel? Answers to these questions will determine your PR, marketing and event content. If you do not have a clear answer to each question please delay your event, this will save you time and money.
For example we held an event at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast. Our answers to the following questions were:
Young people in marginalised communities do not have a voice, that needs to change.
To whom is it targeted?
For this event there was a clear focus on government and civic society, we wanted to influence policy
What do we want them to do when they leave?
We wanted the key policy makers to direct funding towards community groups who were working with young marginalised people and to address their issues when making policy.
How did you want them to feel?
Informed, inspired, proud, energised and determined to make change
How will you know you have achieved this?
Social buzz on various media platforms, evaluation of the event from the audience, anecdotal evidence.
2. Content development and event partners
Before you can promote the event you need something good to talk about. The content of your event is the only reason why people will turn up. Think about partners who may want to be associated with your event and who will add to your credibility and brand. These partners will ideally share your target audience and also have a good following on social media. They may be able to provide staff to help at the event, goody bags, or pick up the bar bill. Figure out what you are happy to share. Also be sure to invite the people whom your target audience follow. If you have partners have a written agreement in advance.
We delivered the BoldVoices event in partnership with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. They invited politicians, news anchors, civic leaders and film-makers. We asked each of them to tweet about the event. If you are paying speakers make sure that the promotion of the event is in their contract.
3. Venue, Risk Assessment, Health and Safety
Once you have decided the above you need to find your venue. Take the following questions into consideration (these are in no particular order):
- Transport links.
- Disability access.
- Brand – is it a venue that people will want to be in?
- Technical capability of the venue and staff.
- Parking or cost of nearby parking.
- Are you able to have a registration desk/reception area?
- Can you pipe music into reception areas to create the atmosphere that you want?
- Is it a pleasant experience for your guests?
- At the point that you have chosen a venue you must do a risk assessment. Take into account every eventuality, people tripping over wires, fire exits, noise levels etc.
- Follow the same journey that your guest will take, what will they see when they arrive, what will they smell (dodgy kitchen or toilet smells are a no-no) or hear?
- I pretend that my audience are toddlers, who are demanding, don’t think and don’t have common sense. This sounds mean but it if you think of them in this way you don’t miss the finer details of audience management.
We have held screening events at many cinemas across the UK. All venues have a good reputation, great staff, lots of space for reception desks and importantly good technical staff.
4. How will you encourage people to attend?
Just booking a venue and hoping people will turn up is a recipe for disaster. Try the following actions and you should get the guests that you need without spending a fortune:
- Create a hash tag for your event on twitter and share this with key event partners or speakers.
- Set up a registration page on Eventbright – it’s free to use. This also means you can track numbers.
- Use twitter to encourage RTs of your event.
- Call any business or institutions that have the audience that you would like to contact and ask them to RT for you.
- Create an event page on Facebook and pack it full of content that will interest your audience.
- Tell people in Linked In or any other social media platforms where you have a presence. Join Linked In groups well in advance of the event and start to spread the word.
- Initiate a Google hangout, offer interesting content that links to your event
- Build anticipation and create excitement by leaking aspects of the event in advance i.e. guest speakers etc.
Press is important in generating interest in your event. However if Kate Middleton isn’t going to turn up you will need to make an effort:
- Target local press. Don’t be snobby about small local papers, a lot of people read them.
- Provide the journalists with good content, have a selection of photos or images and a case study. They like personal stories and will also tend to prioritise a famous face (which can be a bit depressing).
- Target the right journalist and make sure that your event is at the right time of day so that the news teams can turn up.
- Decide which news outlet will be of most benefit to you, if it is an event about tech go to trade mags. Issue based events may be of interest to local papers or broadsheets. Target journalists who have written on this topic before and offer them something new.
- If it’s an arts event think about when news programmes have arts reviews. Would your event receive better coverage at a weekend?
- Check to see if other major events are happening at the same time that will overshadow your event.
- Don’t forget online publishers, particularly ones who are niche and will be looking for content.
- Consider providing a guest blog post in advance of the event, pack it full of good content and then promote the event at the end of piece, don’t make it seem like an advert.
- Make sure that you leave enough time to pitch in events. Some magazines work on a 3-6 month lead in time so plan ahead.
- Don’t forget radio (I often do).
You do not necessarily need to hire a PR to do this. Although it will make your job easier and if you find a good one you will be pleased with the coverage.
Marketing and design:
What is the event logo? What is the design or colours for the event? What is the tone of voice for the marketing materials? Do you need marketing materials i.e. flyers, posters, brochures etc? Do you have a name for the event with a tagline?
In the past we have used BoldVoices, which was a combination of our client’s name,’BoldFace Productions’ and ‘Voices’, which was our project partner’s project name. For our partnership with the BFI Future Film we have had ‘Visionaries: Youth in High Definition’ in 2009 and ‘Visionaries: Youth in 3D’ for our 2012 3D event. If you are going to have a series of events keeping the same name is a good idea as your brand will become known.
5. Technical Specifications:
If you can, do a run through of the event in advance. If you are in a cinema ask for a viewing in advance. When you book the venue make sure that you can convert the files into the format that they work with. We had a near miss when we were holding a 3D screening event and we discovered that the cinema was asking for the films in DCP. We have never converted to this format before and a post-production house was charging for £1300 which would have blown our budget. Luckily we were working with a great freelancer who spent the night accessing forums about DCP and used free software. That taught us a lesson!
Staff are so important to any event. We tend to give them t-shirts with the event brand to distinguish them from the audience. They are briefed carefully and there are a few close colleagues that I will bring in for each event. They must smile, welcome guests, ensure that no-one looks lost, know where the toilets are, timings of the event and the event content. They must also look presentable. Moody people at reception give a bad impression. Staff must feel part of the event, generally if people feel that they matter, they will rise to the occasion.
7. On the day
Don’t be stressed, if you have done your prep it will all be fine. Make sure the staff are briefed. If you have special guests or speakers ensure that you have at least 2 people who just cater for their needs. Give your team petty cash to provide them with refreshments. Get to the venue as early as possible to ensure that the projectionists are briefed. Write up a call sheet with details of the event and everyone’s mobile, share this with your staff. I always write checklists the day before to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything.
If you are filming the event or taking photos you must put up a large sign that tells people it is being filmed. If you have guest speakers they must sign a release form in advance. It is a good idea if you can film the event as you will be to use it as content to sell your next event.
Give someone the job of posting photos, quotes or anything else on social media during the event.
If you are still busy the next day with enquiries then your event was successful!
- Follow up with any press.
- Thank your partners and guest speakers.
- Check your social media buzz.
- Have a debrief, what went well and what didn’t go to plan?
- Edit the video footage as soon as possible and upload this to social networks. Ask your partners or key speakers to do the same.
- Transcribe speeches and write these up as a series of blog posts to promote your next venture.
It is really important to feel proud of your achievement. Creating a good event is no easy feat! Good luck and please share your stories with us.