Using film to engage audiences

by Dr Ruth Page

Last month, I went along to the Flatpack Film Festival’s Film Camp.  It was a great event, packed not just with films but with lots of people and lots of ideas about how to engage audiences with films of different kinds.

In the morning, at the panel about Film and Music, we heard from John Sweeney, Ruth Chan and Loup Blaster about their different experiences creating music that accompanied film. Their top tips for creating an engaging film event for audiences were:

  • Have an unusual venue for the screening
  • Build an event around the film
  • Use local footage linked to a particular historical event or occasion
  • Know your audience or try to connect with a new audience by mixing the combination of music and film in a surprising way.

There needs to be a balance between capturing attention through making the event innovative in some way, but also making it possible for the audience to connect to the film (e.g. through their interest in the music, place or event).

In the afternoon, the MACE archive, (The Media Archive of Central England) talked about the possibilities and challenges of using their archived film material in public events. They showed how there could be many good reasons to use film, for example, to draw on the audience’s memory (nostalgia), to document social history, to create entertainment, and to share local stories and celebrate regional identities.

  • Some important factors to consider include:
  • Does the film have sound? Is silence a problem?
  • Whose lives are represented in the film? Will this exclude certain groups?
  • Do you have the rights to show the film in a public setting (this is particularly relevant for films like adverts)

MACE holds a wealth of material that might be useful if you are interested in footage of events from the Midlands area from the 1920s onwards. You can find out more about their collection, projects and possibility for collaboration on their website: