BLOG: How do we plan the Saffron Screen programme?

Rebecca del Tufo, Programming Manager

While we are unable to put together a programme for you, I thought I’d reflect on how it comes together and share the process with our audience. We hope you find this interesting and helpful!

Development – We have always prepared our programme two months at a time (though, who knows, that may change in the future), and the work on the programme starts two months earlier, so we would start working on the May June programme at the beginning of March. There is an industry website which lists all the films which are being released in the UK, updated weekly. Around 10-15 films are released each week, so we do an initial review, considering which are likely to appeal to our audience; we watch the trailers, read any reviews and consider the genre.

We will have had a chance to preview some of the films – at industry events or with online screeners – or will be aware of others from festival reviews, but we don’t manage to see all the films we programme. However, we work with the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) who between them are able to see more films and share their insight of the films and their understanding of our audience.

Writing – Once we have narrowed down our film selection, we pass the titles to our fabulous team of volunteer writers who draft screen tests for the programme and website. Meanwhile we start sourcing images (from the films’ distributors) and the key information of director, cast, certificate and length. We try to share as much information as possible, particularly around the film’s certificate and the BBFC’s explanation of that certificate (to aid parents or those who want to avoid certain content) and make our programme as accurate as we can.

Scheduling – This is the point that we weave the films we want to screen into a programme, fixing them on dates and days of the week. You will know that our Friday and Saturday night films are more mainstream, our Monday night is for art house, foreign language or classic films, with Sunday nights being something in between, and our 5pm screenings of main titles being very popular. We get most films 5 or 6 weeks after they open in the UK, although sometimes we can get lower profile films a bit earlier. We also have Arts on Screen, which are booked much earlier so have their dates fixed. This point becomes a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, fitting the films so we can offer the right number of screenings, a balanced offering each weekend, and where the distributor will agree to book them. We also might have specific events we are fitting in, special screenings requested by local groups or a collaboration with a Saffron Walden organisation.

Collaboration – At this point we are having regular chats with the ICO as they liaise with the distributors. And we meet to pull together the printed programme, working with the screen tests drafted by our lovely volunteers, ensuring they are clear, honest and explain why someone might choose to see that film we have chosen. As a cinema for everyone in our community, we want to screen all types of film and make sure our customers find the films they will enjoy.

Design – Our draft programme goes in Word, alongside all the film images, to the brilliant Barney at Design Mill, a Saffron Walden design agency who we have been working with since our Going Digital campaign in 2010. There it is transformed into the beautiful paper programme you know and love. It goes backwards and forwards a few times, as we trim a few lines here, add some elsewhere, so it fits and looks good visually, without losing the clear explanation of our films.

Print – And then it goes off to print… and then I spot the error!! I’m not sure we have produced any programme in the 14 years we have been running without at least one (I hope small) mistake which has somehow crept into the printed programme. I sometimes think we should have a competition – spot the (unintentional) error! However many times we have proof read the document, something is always there.

Marketing – While the programme is printed, the marketing team are beavering to get the films onto Veezi, our ticket platform, and onto the website so everything is ready for you, our lovely audience, to buy your tickets once the programme is released into the wild.

And at that point, we start planning the next programme!

The Finished product!