Off Y Grid (OYG) is an exciting new partnership between eight cinemas in North Wales who are working collectively to promote British independent and international film, including homegrown Welsh content.
The scheme was launched in 2016 when Film Hub Wales approached venues across North Wales to develop a new strategic project designed to reduce isolation across venues, build creative project infrastructure and generate shared buzz around film titles in North Wales. Four venues (Galeri, Caernarfon; Pontio, Bangor; Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech; CELLB, Blaenau Ffestiniog) responded to the call, bringing expertise and exciting new cinema experiences to Gwynedd, with the support of Silvia, their central coordinator. This role was later taken on by Pauline.
WHAT ARE THE PROJECT AIMS?
1. To create ‘big ideas in small places’ with rural audiences in mind. Venues of different scales and sizes work collectively to market British independent and international films. A sense of place is important, heritage and seasons which would allow more focused approaches to younger or isolated groups.
2. Maximising geographical space across North Wales to create a physical and cinematic ‘journey’, organising screenings in such a way that local Welsh audiences can visit each venue to see different films and experience local heritage.
3.With central coordination, venues benefit from capacity to negotiate rates, boost marketing (locating key audience groups for films, generating boosted Facebook ads, generating photography, shared programme notes, touring or recording Q&As).
4. Screenings are badged collectively to increase visibility, with season bundles or loyalty schemes to generate interest.
5. FHW support with relevant training or previews to help build a community of venues in the North.
2. They committed to supporting a variety of filmmakers from Welsh film-maker Euros Lyn, director of Y Llyfrgell, to Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins, the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It was important to feature female directors as well, such as Alice Lowe (Prevenge) and Andrea Arnold (American Honey).
3. Off Y Grid offer a loyalty card, available in all cinemas, meaning an audience member can watch six OYG films in any partner venue and get the 7th screening free.
4. The project provided local work opportunities such as a photographer and translator for the Love is Thicker Than Water premiere, both employed locally. They also used a local company to design the logo and branding.
5. They champion Welsh characters and actors, such as Sharon Morgan and Remy Beasley who starred in Love is Thicker than Water. They also offered Welsh films such as Patagonia, YLlyfrgell and Don’t Take Me Home, offering relatable representation on screen. Having Welsh as the first language in all publicity is considered crucial.
6. They exceeded their initial audience projections for the pilot year by 27%.
7. Off Y Grid created a part time employment opportunity for new female talent in the exhibition industry, leading to further work for the Coordinator in the local area. The Coordinator also undertook training on the ICO Cultural Exhibition Course, devising a month’s programme for a new venue, in which they considered the venue, the target audience, the marketing techniques, plus the films themselves and how they would present and schedule them.
8. They are exploring agreements with distributors to share costs as multi-screens rather than multi-venues.
Off Y Grid has also curated a selection of special events:
I,Daniel Blake – Theatr Ardudwy hosted a panel discussion with Professor Hefin Gwilym (lecturer on Social Policy) and PhD student and food poverty specialist Dave Beck, both from Bangor University. The local Labour Party also organised a food bank collection at the theatre, which was filled several times over.
20th Century Women – CELLB held a panel dicussion to compliment Mike Mills’ 70s-based feminist drama. The panel was chaired by Off Y Grid coordinator Silvia Sheehan and political activitist Shan Ashton.
Love Is Thicker Than Water– Off Y Grid venues hosted a series of Q&A screenings for the new Welsh film from director Ate de Jong. Working closely with the director, the events were widely promoted across TV and online.
“The wide definition of ‘off y grid’ films has been liberating (world, welsh, music videos, premieres etc.) and something that has led to a renewed confidence in booking and promoting non-mainstream content in the cinema.”
“Most of the screenings under the ‘Off y Grid’ banner worked well at TA. The ‘I, Daniel Blake’ event tied in with a food bank drive and a Labour Party meeting was the highlight of the program and the major success achieved here (…) without OYG’s event being held here, this would not have happened.”
“Being part of the network also gives us all economies of scale and stronger bargaining power when negotiating a deal with a distributor or talent. With work on our new 2 screen cinema underway (to open July/August 2018), we see this network as something that will strengthen the appetite for independent/non-mainstream titles in the area.(…) There is so much potential for this network, long term there could be regular ‘curated’ screenings at each venue”
“Very positive- great venue- friendly staff & audience members…thank you for a very enjoyable thought provoking experience”
“Excellent film, comfortable seating, great venue…excellent to see digital films in Theatr Ardudwy.”
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