In collaboration with Jameson

Film Hub NI


Investment Schemes are now closed. The next call for proposals will open on the 15th September.

Membership is open all year and is free.

  Extensive Guidlines for Membership and Investment applications are now available - click here to download. Please read these careful before submitting a membership application or project proposal. The short summary below will provide further background information about Film Hub NI, the BFI Film Audience Network, and our plans for the future.

Find out more about Film Hub NI Membership

A Short Summary

The following information was provided at the Film Hub NI Welcome Day in December 2013. To download a printable version of this summary click here If you have any questions about Film Hub NI please email
What is Film Hub NI?fan-tagline
What exactly is specialised film?
The Context of Film Hub NI
Partnership and Leadership
Management Structure
Activity and Delivery
Film Hub NI in Action

What is Film Hub NI?

Film Hub NI is part of a significant new national initiative aimed at growing audiences for film across the UK. Running until March 2017, the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Audience Network (FAN) aims to put film at the centre of cultural life in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, encouraging more people to see a more diverse range of films in more locations nationally.

Film Hub NI will be managed and delivered by Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) in Belfast.  Established in 1968, QFT is ideally placed to lead on this as the only dedicated full-time cultural cinema in Northern Ireland. A key part of the region’s cultural landscape, QFT promotes diversity in cinema to audiences, curates and presents events, seasons and festivals and is a leading centre for film excellence and creativity.  QFT champions film culture in all its rich diversity and is passionate about promoting cultural cinema across Northern Ireland. QFT’s values, knowledge and years of expertise will be reflected throughout all Film Hub NI activities and is fundamental to deliver key Film Hub objectives.  

Over the next four years, Film Hub NI will be responsible for a total investment of £800k into Northern Ireland’s film exhibition sector. Film Hub NI will help to develop and deliver a range of activities including pop-up cinemas, film clubs, programming initiatives, special events and training that will grow audiences for film across Northern Ireland.    

In practice this will see Film Hub NI placed at the centre of film culture in Northern Ireland through the following ways:

•    As a central point to administer and deliver access to project support and investment, information and resources.
•    As an audience development initiative that will identify and grow the appetite for independent and specialised film across Northern Ireland.
•    As a strategic platform to build capacity and develop an infrastructure that provides all those who love film with new inspiration and opportunities, creating new, lifelong audiences for film.  
•    As an advocate for film anback to topd cinema in Northern Ireland and further afield.

What exactly is specialised film?

In order to define specialised film, the BFI have created the following criteria:

Foreign language with subtitles: In almost all circumstances a film of this type will be classified as ‘specialised’. Examples include; Let the Right One In, The Orphanage, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I’ve Loved You So Long, Gomorrah etc.
Documentaries: Again, under almost all circumstances documentaries will be classified as specialised. Examples include; Shine a Light, Man on Wire, Sounds Like Teen Spirit, The Age of Stupid etc.
Archive/classic films: Notwithstanding the focus of the original film or the language it is presented in, and the audience which today it might appeal to, archive or classic films will be regarded as specialised. Examples might include; Goldfinger, The Wizard of Oz etc.
For films that do not fall into these categories, other criteria will be applied. Specifically consideration will be given to:  

Genre: Whereas mainstream films might be regarded as falling within popular and recognisable genres (e.g. Comedy, Romance, Period, Crime/Thriller, Horror, Action, Sci-Fi). Specialised films are often less easy to define and thus more difficult to categorise in this way. Examples include: There Will be Blood, Somers Town, The Edge of Love, The Visitor etc.
Hook or USP With mainstream films, the subject matter is generally immediately obvious, appealing and easy to communicate to audiences. Specialised films often deal with more complex and challenging subject matters that are less easy to communicate. Examples include: Persepolis, Hunger, In the Loop, Happy Go Lucky etc.
Cinematic style: Within the mainstream genre, the film’s narrative and cinematic style are generally quite straightforward, uncomplex, conventional and with high production values. Specialised films are often characterised as having a more innovative or unconventional storytelling style or aesthetic and may deviate from the straightforward narrative structure found in mainstream cinema. Overall, the film is more dependent on story, character development and a challenging subject matter than on high production values, effects and star names. For example: Atonement, Waltz with Bashir, No Country for Old Men etc.
Recorded Live Performances e.g. Opera, concerts and sports events are considered to be Alternative Content and not specialised.  
It should be noted that while this definition attempts to be as comprehensive as possible, the discretion, knowledge and judgment of programmers is a primary consideration in any decision making by Film Hub NI.

The Context of Film Hub NI

The introduction of the BFI Film Audience Network represents an important new opportunity to expand, develop and enhance film culture across Northern Ireland. It also poses some significant challenges in a region with a lack of infrastructure, a fragmented exhibition sector and little to no experience of the existing cultural networks available.

The baseline metrics for cinema going in Northern Ireland are strong in some areas, but weak in others. Overall NI has a good cinema admission rate (3.3 visits per person per year against a UK average of 2.7), along with a very high density of screens across the region (11.3 per 100,000 of the population as compared to a UK average of 6.1).

The picture for cultural cinema going is not nearly so positive however. Across NI multiplexes account for over 80% of cinema screens. There are just 34 traditional type screens and, of these, only 2 (QFT) are dedicated to cultural cinema - by far the lowest rate in the UK.  
This has directly resulted in much less activity in the ‘specialised’ film sector in NI compared to other regions and it is this imbalance that Film Hub NI will aim to address.

This initiative is set within the context of the wider expansion within the production sector within NI, with the success of films such as Good Vibrations, but also the fundamental shift in the global awareness of the Northern Irish film production sector. Positive news stories have filled newspapers and websites promoting the role of NI technical and artistic talent. This makes Film Hub NI a timely accelerant to a primed marketplace.

As part of the BFI Film Audience Network, Film Hub NI will develop and oversee a strategic programme of funded support, training and sectorial development that will be targeted to the local film exhibition sector, building infrastructure and ensuring sustainable growth for the future. .
The Objectives of Film Hub NI

The Network will operate within key strategic objectives of the BFI as outlined in the BFI's 5 year plan, Film Forever. These key objectives are:

Reach - to increase and broaden audiences for specialised and British independent film;
Breadth - to considerably extend film choice for audiences across the UK.
Depth - to enhance opportunities for audiences to engage with and learn about film.

Film Hub NI, in partnership with other key organisations and stakeholders, has set the following regional priorities to assist the Network in delivering the BFI’s key objectives:

•    Increasing the frequency of opportunities for audiences to engage with specialised and cultural cinema.
•    Increasing the diversity of films shown across NI.
•    Increasing the number of venues showing specialised film.
•    Developing  and engaging rural and underserved audiences
•    Developing and engaging young audiences
•    Developing and engaging hard to reach and culturally diverse audiences
•    Increasing the opportunities for audiences to learn about film including screen heritage.
•    Enriching the audience experience of specialised cinema.

Partnership and Leadership

Key to creating the network is developing existing partnerships and building new relationships. Film Hub NI will develop and grow relationships with exhibitors, venues, communities, educators, local government and other strategic partners in Northern Ireland and further afield. We already have a broad network of contacts and partners including distributors, exhibitors, festivals, cinemas and venues, local government and regional and national agencies. Film Hub NI has a clear commitment to partnership working and to growing existing relationships and developing new ones. We will collaborate with a wide spectrum of partners to create exciting and innovative programmes and initiatives that will drive audience choice, reach and engagement regionally and nationally.

Locally, partners will include the following:

•    Hub Members: cinemas, festivals, venues, arts organisations, film clubs and societies.
•    Borough Councils
•    Regional Arts Centres
•    Commercial venues and cinema chains eg Omniplex, Moviehouse
•    Education and Library Boards: libraries, schools and colleges
•    Community Groups
•    Arts Organisations
•    Cinemobile (ROI)

All of the above will be closely involved in the day to day delivery of Hub activity and in the realisation of key Hub outcomes.

Regionally, partners will include:

•    Northern Ireland Screen
•    Arts Council NI
•    Queen’s University
•    University of Ulster
•    Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
•    Other government departments as appropriate
•    Arts & Business NI
•    Access Cinema (ROI)
•    Regional press and media
•    Sponsors

Regional partners will be involved in strategic planning and delivery of Hub activities. They will be closely involved in advocacy and awareness-raising around Hub activities, objectives and outcomes.

National Partners will include:
•    British Film Institute
•    Film Nation
•    Film Audience Network HLOs
•    British Federation of Film Societies
•    Independent Cinema Office
•    Cinema Arts Network
•    National Cinema chains eg Odeon, Picturehouse

National partnerships will focus on the overall strategic direction of the Film Audience Network as well as on collaborative programming, marketing initiatives and infrastructure including support, training and mentoring.

Management Structure

Along with QFT, Film Hub NI will be located within the Culture & Arts Department of Queen’
University Belfast and will fall under the University’s established policies and procedures including Finance, Purchasing and HR. In addition to drawing on the expertise and knowledge of existing QFT personnel, Film Hub NI will have two dedicated staff, a Project Manager and Project Co-ordinator (part-time) who will oversee and administer all aspects of Film Hub NI operations and activity.

Overall governance of Film Hub NI will be supervised by the newly established Hub Steering Group who will also lead on the decision making processes surrounding awards for Hub supported activity. Membership of the Hub Steering Group will be drawn from all areas of the
Film exhibition sector, including cinemas, film festivals and film clubs, and will also include members chosen for their professional skills and knowledge.  

Activity and Delivery

The central pillar of Film Hub NI’s activity plan will be the development of an engaged and committed independent exhibition sector encompassing a wide range of organisations and partners. Our members will come from a wide variety of backgrounds including film clubs and societies, arts organisations, community groups, local interest groups, festivals, venues and more. Membership will be open to all and will operate on a two-tier structure which has been designed to accommodate a range of potential members whilst providing a clear and effective structure. At the most basic level all prospective members must be able to demonstrate a clear commitment to the stated objectives of Film Hub NI. In tandem with this we will launch a programme of targeted awards schemes strategically aimed at addressing key Hub objectives.

Awards schemes are:

Impact (Up to £15,000 per award)
These will be large scale film exhibition projects designed to have a regional reach and a significant impact on audience awareness, development and growth. These projects will include touring film programmes (regionally and nationally programmed) and festivals, partnerships with venues, cultural collaborations and commercial cinemas, community outreach and education initiatives

Grassroots (Up to £9,000 per award)
This strand will be aimed at developing local film activity, resources and infrastructure and will include activities delivered by film clubs and societies, community groups and local venues (eg libraries, arts centres, schools). There will be a particular emphasis on supporting exhibition activity in underserved areas, on increasing consistency and frequency of film activity and on improving the diversity of films shown. The ambition is to operate very much on a grass-roots level and to reflect the knowledge of local audiences and interests. Projects will run year round and a key focus will be on developing and growing local audiences through providing consistent film programming.  Key delivery partners for this scheme will include local film clubs and groups, BFFS, Borough Councils and Education and Library boards.

Membership will operate on two tiers depending on individual member organisations’ status. Each award scheme will be open to specific membership tiers and awards will be made as either cash or in-kind, dependent on the scheme and type of membership.  

Tier 1: will be aimed at established and formally constituted organisations with a track record of delivery to funding objectives. Awards to Tier One organisations will be made in cash.

Tier 2: will appeal to more informal and voluntary organisations such as film societies and interest groups. Awards to Tier Two organisations will be made in the form of in-kind support for delivery.

This two-tier support mechanism will allow as wide as funding coverage as possible, leading to greater infrastructure and organisational confidence.

Table 1 provides an overview of Film Hub NI Membership and Awards Schemes.   

Awards will be made following the process below:

  •   Criteria for Year 1 membership and open call for membership (Tiers One and Two) issued.
  •   Membership confirmed.
  •   Criteria for Schemes (Impact & Grassroots) and call for proposals issued.
  •   Proposals received by deadline notified.
  •   Eligible proposals shortlisted and passed to Hub Steering Group Sub-Committee for final decision on successful proposals.
  •   Successful proposals identified and agreements issued.
  •   Awards made

Film Hub NI in Action

Our ambition is that our plans as outlined above build a dynamic, thriving film culture in NI with a wide range of activity taking place across diverse communities and regions for an engaged and enthusiastic audience. This multi-faceted approach will enable both strategic initiatives aimed at actively developing audiences along with a foundation of smaller scale local activity.  

Along with growing audiences, our aim is also to grow the film exhibition sector here in NI and key to our plans is the development of a sense of community around film, and of a distinctive, unique and vibrant cultural sector.

To this end, and as key part of Film Hub NI activity, we will also be delivering training and development opportunities across the sector. Areas covered will include digital projection, audience development, programming and more and we will be working with partners nationally to bring this to our members here in NI.

A binding principle behind the BFI’s Film Audience Network is to put film ‘at the heart of culture’. We believe wholeheartedly in this endeavour, as we believe that film is an art form that can deliver education, pleasure and entertainment. Film tells stories of ourselves and others that can lead to a greater, richer and deeper understanding of the world around us and by extension ourselves. Film Hub NI is dedicated to delivering what film offers to the widest possible audience through partnership and leadership, enabling and empowering the film network that exists in Northern Ireland to grow and develop. 

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QFT Programme October 2014

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