How to plan a Watch-Along: A Guide from Chapter programmer, Claire Vaughan

Whilst in Lockdown we’ve been forced to find new ways to connect to our audience. Without a physical cinema to programme it has forced us to try and be innovative and be more mindful of what our audience needs and how we can try and help them navigate through this new digital world.

However, this has proved challenging for many of us, as the field of digital offers is crowded and it can feel difficult to find sense in the noise. 

Selecting content via an online platform – either through streaming or video on demand or from free-to-view websites – that enables you to curate for your audience and provide discussion and film education.  A good example of a guide to this is Cinema For All’s guide to online film clubs created last year.

Why are you doing this?  

It is important for you to think carefully about why you want to start doing this and whether you have the capacity to put effort into these events.  

The bad news: 

  • The numbers are low compared with usual cinema audiences,
  • It is a new skill and you may feel insecure about doing it,
  • You may not have an audience who are online enough who may need guiding through the process, 
  • You will be limited to the content available. 

The good news: 

  • Create Community – It is worthwhile if you want to keep in touch with your audience,
  • Demonstrate your curatorial skills and knowledge and help others connect to film, 
  • Learn new skills and expand your knowledge,  
  • Generates revenue (not a huge amount, but when all other avenues of income are blocked it is useful), 
  • Boosts mental health – given projects to work on helps staff mental health and well-being and reciprocal for your audience. 

How can you do this?

  • The first step is to find content via one of the many platforms available, 
  • Facilitate with your team and contacts to work out what type of event you can offer,
  • Is this something you can charge for? Even if you use free-to-view content you can charge for the discussion or wrap-around event you are hosting,
  • Incentivise this for your audience by making it into an event and promoting it.

How are you going to choose your films? 

When the first Lockdown happened in March I tried to bring order to the chaos by putting all the films I found suitable for my audience into a spreadsheet. I subsequently set up a webpage to help programmers around the UK do the same and gave myself the project whilst on furlough to update it daily. I prioritised free-to-view films and films that were available on the most popular streaming services. The spreadsheet can be found here on the Reframed Film website.

What next? 

Once you have an idea of what content is out there you can try and refine this down by thinking about how you want to select it for your audience. 

  • Season-based (films on audience-development basis such as films by women, Christmas films), 
  • Curated content – ideas from your team, based on your strategic priorities,
  • Audience vote on website / social media.

Questions you need to ask 

1. What type of event will this be? 

  • Will you have a short?
  • Will you have a discussion? 
  • Will it be a one-off event, something on your website / promoted by you for a limited time, or a series?

2. What costs will there be involved?  

  • Staff costs (researching, attending the event), 
  • Guest speaker costs, 
  • Facilitator for Q&A (e.g. have someone running the event in the background), 
  • Will there be a collaboration with a filmmaker or festival, 
  • Programme notes / additional content (e.g. Abertoir goodies), 
  • Tech costs (eg zoom, content)

3. What costs will there be for the audience?  

  • Is it free-to-view or SVOD, 
  • Will you charge a ticket price.

4. What sort of audience size are you aiming for? 

  • Your tech may prevent large audience size but you may just want a few

5. What are the accessibility needs? (live captions, translation etc)

6. What marketing techniques will you use? (e-flyer, trailer, social media)

7. How often do you want to do this? 

The number of streaming platforms and portals can be vast but these can be easily broken down when you look at what they offer and whether they are suitable for your audience. 


  • BBC iPlayer – E.g. classic films like Citizen Kane or documentaries like Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield). 
  • 4OD (Channel Four)E.g. Contemporary films such as Attack the Block (Joe Cornish) and Iris Prize shorts  

Subscription services 

The biggest issue with these services is that you are reliant on whether or not your audience is already using them as there is a price-base for all of them. Most do free trials, so if you are doing a one-off event you could push your audience to sign up, but it may put some audiences off. At the same time, some of the streamers are very popular and are likely to already be used by your audience and already have Watch Party platforms to facilitate engagement with your audience. 

  • Mubi – world cinema and curated content 
  • Netflix – International film streaming service – lots of original content unavailable elsewhere 
  • Amazon Prime – International film streaming service – original content unavailable elsewhere 
  • BFI Player – free service of archive films, British focus and curated seasons 
  • Disney+ - studio-based content, good for family events 
  • Shudder – horror streamer, some original content 
  • Curzon – streaming service for the cinema chain 
  • Apple TV – some original film content, not always compatible with devices. 
  • Now TV (Sky) – Now TV is monthly no commitment and passes can be bought for the film site. 

It may be enough for you to simply offer content through a Virtual Cinema model if you have limited capacity, but I recommend that to host a discussion or workshop to try and help your audience feel closer to you and to promote your activity. 


To help your audience feel a part of your venue it is important to try and facilitate discussion. This can be as simple as just having a chat after the film or a full workshop. Anything you do will have meaning and be rewarding for your audience, so please don’t feel too intimidated to do this.  

Social media 

For my first watch along event I simply took to a medium that I felt comfortable with to try it out and tweeted facts and discussion points and had a nice amount of interaction with our audience. It was fun for me and our audience felt informed.  

  • For Twitter and Facebook – use #hashtags to help track conversations,
  • On Facebook and YouTube you could stream yourself talking about the film and use the comments under the video for interaction with your audience. 


You only need one account (yours) everyone else can just click the link and follow. Try to guard against people hacking it by sending out the link via email or Eventbrite. A benefit of using Zoom is that most people are familiar with the platform at this point, if they’re not there should be enough support in your team to make it something achievable. A warning – you can stream the entire Watch event on zoom by sharing screen, but it is laggy and hugely dependent on the individuals’ internet connection so I don’t recommend it (also free zoom connections only last 40mins, so would not be long enough for a feature, unless you’re doing a break it won’t work).  

This is the system where you all watch through a device and a chat box appears on the side of the frame, allowing for interaction during the event. This can be distracting during the film, but is popular with younger audiences.  

  • Netflix Watch Party (Teleparty) – Everyone needs a Netflix account and can be used by up to 50ppl, available via Chrome.  
  • Amazon Prime Watch PartyEveryone needs an Amazon Prime account – accessed via the button under the film title on Prime. However, please note that this is for use on Prime specifically, not for the “Channels” (such as Arrow, BFI Player etc)