How You Can Run Your Own Free Film Festival

By Stuart Black Last edited 18 months ago
How You Can Run Your Own Free Film Festival
Peckham Rye Outdoor Cinema. Photo credit: Electric Pedals.

Since 2010, the rather brilliant Free Film Festivals initiative has swept across London, starting off with Peckham and Nunhead then more or less engulfing the capital in community-run screenings. And now the organisers want to encourage other postcodes to join in with a brand new website that explains everything you always wanted to know about FFF (but were afraid to ask).

"We want to make it as easy as possible for people to start their own festivals," says founding organiser Neil Johns. "So we’ve put all the answers to all the questions we get online covering everything from: do I need a license? to health and safety."

So this is where you need to go — www.freefilmfestivals.org — just click on the 'Start a Festival' section, have a read then think about the films you want to share with your friends and neighbours. The site also has all the listings for upcoming films and festivals as before.

Johns is also in the process of setting up mentoring arrangements so that people who've already done it can help those who want to have a go. "There’s no such thing as a centre for the Free Film Festival idea apart from me and my garage," he jokes.

Screening at Herne Hill Station.

"We want to say that this is happening and you can take part. You don’t need to be a film buff or have experience of doing something similar. It’s all about local people in a micro-community who, like a lot of Londoners, want to celebrate their area. So ideally, the audience should be within walking distance."

He adds that the initiative isn't just confined to the capital either. "They've all been in London up to now — apart from a one-off in Weston-super-Mare. But there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't work anywhere. I'd be happy to see one taking place on an island of the west coast of Scotland."

Perhaps the coolest thing about the FFF so far is that it has encouraged people to put on films in unusual local locations and landmarks — a night of Japanese horror movies with live drumming in a chapel in Peckham was one memorable example (see picture below). More regularly, you can attend outdoor summer screenings powered by bike — and again the website provides info on who to talk to at your local park if you like the idea.

Johns adds that if you do start a festival it will require commitment: "It's not rocket science but it can be hard work co-ordinating and organising, so don't underestimate it. But it is fun and it is rewarding — and you'll be amazed at how an initial idea can mushroom as more people come on board." As you can see from the pictures below, that also means all manner of workshops and innovative local events on top of the screenings themselves.

There are about eight Free Film Festivals running at the moment — hopefully with this website making it easier, we'll soon have 80 to choose from.

Click here for all the information.

Screening with live drummers at the Asylum Chapel, Peckham.
Make a Film in a Day workshop, 2012.
Screening at the Southwark Asian Centre.
Project Wild Thing.

Last Updated 17 March 2016

Tom Bailey

Hello, Hooray for more film events! This might be of interest to anyone thinking about it. I wrote this guide for organisers of temporary screening events for FilmHub South East in 2014. http://shycamera.co.uk/thought...