You cannot just rent a disc from your local DVD shop to show at a film society or to any audience outside your home. Whether you show on 35mm, 16mm or DVD you must obtain a licence from one of the distributors. These are mainly agencies representing the production companies like Sony, Warners, Disney and so on.
Some distributors, such as FilmBank offer a variety of licences to suit different needs - including regular shows in care homes, schools etc, hotels, coaches and the like. Film societies traditionally work on a "non-theatric" licence which limits the audience to members and their guests and restricts advertising. Some film societies now operate like community cinemas and open to the public so they need a commercial licence.
Some distributors will then rent you a print, disc or cassette of the film - others will give you a licence and permit you to use your own copy bought through normal retail channels. Typical hire fees are £80 - £120 for a single showing to 200 people. FilmBank handles movies from the major Hollywood names. BFI and BFFS offer more specialist classic and foreign films. Other distributors may be more used to dealing with cinemas booking a five-day run, but most will also deal with a film society seeking a one-off show.
BFFS (The British Federation of Film Societies) runs a block-booking scheme which rents interesting movies to members at specially low fees. The current details are at http://bffs.org.uk/services/blockbooking/
Most film societies turn first to:
Then there are scores of specialist companies. Here are some of them:
The 35mm market is huge ranging from major players with thousands of titles to small distributors with a handful of interesting films. It can be a minefield and most film societies use the services of a booking agency to handle 35mm bookings. Agencies will also handle 16mm and video bookings too. Their commission may be partly offset by good deals but you pay to have them hunt up the sources, make the deals, do the paperwork and tear their hair out ...
The former UK Film Councils New Cinema Fund in association with regional partners across the UK has developed and trained filmmakers producing over 180 short films over the last two years under its Digital Shorts Low Budget Film scheme. In partnership with Short Circuit Films (SCF) there now exists a catalogue of over 50 of the Digital Short Films including BAFTA nominated Bouncer starring Ray Winstone and the BBC3 Talent winner, Gone.
The criteria for the selected films are that they should demonstrate strong visual narrative and themes. The films range from 3 10 minutes and are predominantly drama or animation with some mixed-media and occasional documentaries. In 2003 SCF launched a theatrical programme called Big Stories | Small Flashes which was recently released on DVD by Cest La Vie Films. SCF are now looking to strengthen and grow relations within the regions with cinemas, film societies and rural touring organisations to showcase new work and new talent.
Bespoke programmes are available and some film societies are regularly screening short films in front of features. Films in the catalogue are from all over the UK (with the exception of Wales) and so programmes can be further shaped to include only regional works. Programmes can also be organised by subject matter, for example for teenagers or animation. We only charge screening fees to cover our costs, so individual films can be screened for £10 and programmes from £50 (dependent on length). The formats available are DVD; Digi Beta and Mini DV (the latter depends on how many films being screened).
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