Coming soon to…wherever you choose

Indie Screenings enables people to organise and host screenings of a film in venues in their own community, as and how they choose.

By Rosie Lavan

Indie Screenings was a by-product of Franny Armstrong’s climate change docudrama, The Age of Stupid. Armstrong was determined that as many people as possible should see her film, particularly before the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009, on which all her campaigning efforts were focused. With her first documentary, McLibel, she received many requests to screen it and found herself replying to each individual and calculating a specific licence fee according to their plans. Indie Screenings was launched in May 2009 both to avoid this labour-intensive process and ensure that people could see her film easily and at a fair price.

Some 1500 screenings of The Age of Stupid were arranged through the site in its first nine months

People request a screening via the Indie Screenings site, where unique software calculates a bespoke licence fee for their event according to the number of people who are going to see it and where it will be held. Venues range from schools and churches to pubs and community centres.

For content owners, the non-exclusive, non-theatric nature of the arrangement with Indie Screenings means international sales and possible deals with distributors are not compromised. With no distributor, exhibitor or sales agent in the middle, the licence fee lands straight in the PayPal account of the filmmakers, but the organisers of the screening profit, too: they are free to charge an entrance fee to those who come to see the film. In the first nine months alone 1500 screenings of The Age of Stupid were held, raising £150,000 for the makers and thousands more for the organisers.

As befits the political impetus behind The Age of Stupid, the Indie Screenings how-to guide is also something of a campaigning toolkit. It suggests that organisers book speakers to accompany their screening of Stupid, and the website enables people to make direct requests for Armstrong, producer Lizzie Gillett or actor Pete Postlethwaite to attend.

Indie Screenings has the potential to change significantly the way people access films. Independent filmmakers can reach audiences anywhere, without coming up against the practical and financial barriers that traditional distribution models impose. Wherever they live, audiences are no longer denied the chance to see films which might otherwise only enjoy limited release in cinemas.

In March 2010 Indie Screenings linked up with Channel 4’s Britdoc Foundation to form Good Screenings, a companion website where people can arrange screenings of a number of social justice documentaries, including The Age of Stupid, McLibel and Rupert Murray’s much-discussed End of the Line.

Key projects

The Age of Stupid

End of the Line, feature documentary examining overfishing, which prompted a high-profile campaign in the UK

Erasing David, David Bond’s look at how personal information has become publicly available

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