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Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:04 pm
by Ivor
By now some of you will have received your copy of January FVM and read my Chairman's Chat.
In it I say that I would like to start a discussion on how the IAC can attract new members and I invite you to join in the discussion either on the IAC General mailing list this forum or emailing me at chairman at
I know that some of you have tried on many occasions to attract new members to your clubs. Sometimes it has worked and another time it has not. I believe that by pooling our ideas we may be more successful in formulating a way of increasing membership of the IAC and local clubs.
Do please join in the discussion.

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:36 pm
by TimStannard
I'm not received my copy yet, Ivor, but I would certainly think that an obvious approach would be to find out how clubs who have been successful have been recruiting. Chris Coulson and Mike Shaw are both active members of Orpington - a club which has been very successful at recruitment so no doubt they will post here or contact you via email.

Reading have adopted an approach which whe are hoping to adopt and adapt at Staines (if we can find enough willing volunteers). In a nutshel, they run courses for people wanting to take their videomaking a bit more seriously. Nothing new there, but read on ...

The course runs for six weeks on the same nights as club nights, in a separate room. After their one-hour session, they join the main meeting. The students pay a fee (£25) I think for the course - not enough to put anyone serious off, but enough to prevent them turning up to one or two courses and then not bothering with the rest. The students receive a professionally printed and bound set of course notes, which adds to the feeling of the "worth" of the course. Any course members who decide to join the club, get their course fee knocked off their first year's membership.

This has been run twice with about a dozen students each time, with more than half going on to be members.

I'm sure we're all capable of getting potential members along once or twice, but they all to often don't appear after that. Reading's approach has a couple of related key points which help retain the students as members:

Because the course is run every week for a number of weeks, the "students" get into the "habit" of attending - we tend to be creatures of habit and this is no small point.
Because they attend the club meetings after the courses (they're already on location, and so likely to stay) they get a much broader view of the benefits of club meetings.

It is this latter point - the benefit of being in a club - which is the difficult thing to sell, and I believe people need to attend several meetings in order to start to see the benefits. All the "old school" ideas of being able to share skills and techniques are almost irrelevant nowadays as so much information is readily available on the internet.

For example: Why would a novice film maker want to go to Staines Video Makers for an evening on green screen when they can see it done and demonstrated much better, with better equipment and probably a more expert and better presenter on the internet?

Well, the answer is you get a hands on opportunity to try it (but until you've actually been to those meetings, you don't appreciate how much more useful that is)

Similarly, why show your film to a roomfull of 20-50 people when you can show it to potentially billions on the internet? Again, until you've actually saty in a room with a bunch of people who aren't friends and family, watching your film on a big screen, you can't begin to understand the emotions or the benefits.

These are the things the IAC needs to sell. Not the benefits that people can get elsewhere, but the benefits that distinguish us from other sources of information.

Incidentally, i mentioned Readings approach to a friend who's a committee member at Norwich Movie Makers - his immediate reaction was that this is exactly what the IAC should be doing!
I would agree, but I think it is important that it is done at club level (IAC run courses not run by clubs may result in a few individial IAC members, but we need the in the clubs) and with the diversity of clubs, I don't think a "standard" approach would necessarily work. However, there is no reason why the IAC shouldn't assist by sponsering such events and/or provide materials/equipment or even "tutors" for courses.

Sorry for such a long winded response - I could hase simply said talk to Reading!

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:51 pm
by Dave Watterson
Good to have the IAC Chairman taking an active part on the forum, welcome Ivor.

If people have ideas of general interest, please post them here where other people who run clubs and events may benefit.

My first thoughts are:

For both clubs and IAC generally there are actually three types of member:
  • active film makers
    tech enthusiasts who enjoy kit, editing etc and
    supporters who enjoy the social contact, like most films and want to help by paying their subs and tickets.
We tend to talk mainly about the first and sometimes second groups. But all three deserve attention.

The IAC nationally does not do much for clubs. There is the special deal on public-liability insurance. Most of the video library collections can be used as the basis of a club evening. They get an extra copy of the magazine. We have one award for best club film at BIAFF. Other organisations have annual competitions to find and reward the best clubs. Should we consider that? Some regions have experimented with allowing clubs to book blocks of seats for their regional events at a discount price. Would that translate to the national scene? (Many members may not appreciate that as a Registered Charity IAC must be wary of offering special discounts etc to its members.)

Reaching potential new individual members is very hard. The IAC website and the annual stand which volunteers run at the BAVA event are almost the only way we draw public attention to ourselves. We might pay more attention to publicising our BIAFF winners. Have we access to enough good photographers to prepare press pictures of the winning film makers in advance of the festival, so that press-packs can go out to national and local press the week before?


Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:40 pm
by ned c
The problem the traditional non-commercial (n-c /“amateur”) world faces is that it is pretty well shunned by the emerging film makers, you only have to visit websites such as “shooting people”, a UK site, to discover there is a huge amount of independent film making going on, much of it with professional aspirations but no hope of professional success, that would fit right into the n-c world. Or perhaps not as they would challenge the established mores of an aging community that seems to use the films of the 50s and 60s as its paradigm. (But certainly not those of Ken Loach or Ken Russell).

First a piece of simple but essential housekeeping; completely expunge the word amateur from every corner of the organization. The value of words changes with time and usage, when the IAC was founded in the 1930s and on through the 40s, to be an amateur film maker was an honorable hobby. However, nowadays the combination of the words amateur and movie is used to denote something of inferior quality, poorly made, an apology appended to a bad shot included in the TV news. Young movie makers do not want to be identified as amateurs, do not want to win amateur prizes or recognition; to a young movie maker to be defined as an amateur is the kiss of death. Think long and hard about the new name. Perception is important in the world; first impressions carry weight. Film and Video are fine, Institute sounds like a place of detention in this context. Cinematography is one part of what we do and increasingly a small part.

One of the great and ongoing achievements of the IAC is the music license program; this is a tremendous boon to all n-c movie makers and should be cheered and shouted from the housetops.

The website is an excellent source of information and news, the NLE forum a resource of help and co-operation the open forum a great basis for discussion on every aspect of movie making. Promote them.

The BIAFF (soon to be the BIFF I hope) is the jewel in the IAC crown; well organized; judge’s notes; categorized recognition. Create a student section for the annual competition and festival with judges drawn from the ranks of young contemporary movie makers. Have awards that will attract students, money for productions or tuition. This is where the future for the organization lies and is ignored at our peril. Have awards for genres of movies that will attract and reward young movie makers; for example, fan films; experimental; horror; SF. Get rid of the “young film makers” category it has a whiff of condescension

Arrange the distribution of the winning movies, by putting them up on YouTube; Vimeo and the website; with lots of active pointers so that movie makers outside the organization can view them, encourage feedback and use the information to shape the organization. We all make movies to be watched and we all want a reaction from the audience.

Distribute the magazine by e-mail. The magazine must be the single largest cost to the IAC and the money saved could be diverted into making the awards at the festival even more attractive.

Use the Regions to run public open days for showing the winners and widen the world of n-c movie making. Make room for young movie makers, perhaps two screens, offer open screen time, with a time limit and a discussion.
Accept that this is the Internet age and build the IAC around the Internet. There will come a point where we will not be able to afford to attend Festivals as travel and hotel costs soar and our incomes fall in this period of economic difficulty.

Yes, all this needs management and organization but I believe the rewards will be the expansion of n-c movie making to encompass all those young movie makers who presently have no home, and at the same time keep us oldies on side in an exciting new environment.

Ned Cordery
IAC Member 10489

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:37 pm
by Ian Woodward
Ned’s well-reasoned posting is one of the best arguments I have yet seen on the thorny subject of the derogatory connotations associated with the word “amateur” in the IAC’s title and in the title of BIAFF, its premier competition/festival.

Few non-commercial film festivals worldwide now use the poisonous word “amateur” in a festival’s title, or in the name of its organisation, for all the obvious pointers that Ned outlines.

Is there any good reason why the IAC cannot be renamed the Institute of Cinematographers - a cinematographer is a cinematographer, irrespective of his professional or non-commercial status - so why muddy the waters with the word “amateur”?

And is there any good reason why BIAFF cannot become the British International Film Festival (BIFF)?

Expunge the word” amateur” from all descriptions relating to non-commercial film-making, be it in the title of festivals or in profiling its practitioners, and I suspect new recruits (some raw and green behind the ears, some brilliant and established award-winners) will become attracted in their droves to the IC and its excellent, long-established work in promoting independent film-makers – who, sadly, the IAC currently define as amateurs.

Ian Woodward

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Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:53 pm
by Mike Shaw
The field is covered (in the UK anyway) by the IOV - Institute of Videography. Professional/prosumer film makers.
They make films for a living.

As I see it, the IAC, whatever name you tag it with, is for 'hobbyists'. Amateurs, in the original meaning of the word, hobbyists, non-commercial film-makers, not-for-profit film-makers - call them what you like, how you like, when you like, there is a difference, and that difference needs to be signposted. Or we might as well all try to join the IOV, and pretend we make films for money...

The disagreement, as far as I can see, is in the terminology applied to our side of the fence, and no one, yet, has come up with a satisfactory solution. To call BIAFF 'BIFF', dropping the 'amateur', is misleading, and confusing. Does it mean we will be open to films from pro movie makers? Of course not.

What is a pro movie maker anyway? If Steven Spielberg made a movie just for fun - for his local video club, say, where would that sit in the scheme of things? Is he an amateur? Amateurish? Ha ha! But he made a film for fun - so wouldn't it qualify for the 'terms and conditions' of films in our festivals?

Re-thinking what we are about is probably the real need. Are we amateurs (in the original sense - a phrase that which needs to be said every time the word is used, unfortunately), or are we makers of films 'not-for-profit'. Even 'non-commercial' has a bad connotation: in my advertising days, if a thing was non-commercial it wasn't viable.

We need that word that says 'for fun', 'not for profit'. And there isn't one. Therein lies the rub. To drop the word amateur without replacing it is to put us on a par (for example) with the IOV. And we're not.

We are victims of the changing language. 'Amateur' no longer means what it originally meant, what we wanted it to mean. We need to do what the Americans do so well - invent a new word to cover the situation. FFF (Films for Fun, Films for Free). So maybe BIFOFF instead of BIAFF (British International Festival of Films for Fun/Free). How important does BIFOFF sound? Rubbish! Even BIFFF (British International Fun Film Festival) sounds rubbish.

Question ... what does 'UNICA' stand for (I can guess, but don't know for sure). Does the 'A' mean 'Amateur', or Association'? Could we become BUNICA? Sounds like a disease of the big toe.

The debate rumbles on. And until someone comes up with a replacement word for 'amateur' or a totally alternative description of our activities, it will continue to rumble on, in never ending circles.

For me, IAC - 'Institute of Amateur Cinematographers' - still has a cachet: I see nothing in that statement that implies 'rubbish film-makers' - even though it has the word 'amateur' securely embedded in the middle. Of course, many today read 'Institution' instead of Institute - and see an Institution as a place of disrepute.

I'm really sad at the way today's language is being usurped and changed by so-called modern idioms.

Years and years ago (over 60, to be exact), when I started out to be a writer as a career, I was horrified to discover that the original meaning of the word 'sophisticated' was 'spoiled', as in 'affected by sophis'.

Language is a fluid, ever changing thing - so, time to invent a new word for our activities. Maybe hovering around the word 'Hobby'. Because as far as I'm concerned, that's what it is.

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:38 pm
by Dave Watterson
Let's not get too hung-up on "amateur". The IAC Chairman asks for our help in building numbers. A name change may help, but there must be other ideas too.

By the way - some years ago the alternative title "the film & video institute" was officially adopted but never really caught on.

As for UNICA it is officially "UNION INTERNATIONALE DU CINÉMA" - they just ignore the A. In many countries they have adopted the word "authors" to use the A. In many ways that is a decent definition of our type of films ... made by an author, not by a committee or a studio.

But other ideas, please, folks ...

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:35 am
by TimStannard
Dave Watterson wrote: For both clubs and IAC generally there are actually three types of member:
  • active film makers
    tech enthusiasts who enjoy kit, editing etc and
    supporters who enjoy the social contact, like most films and want to help by paying their subs and tickets.
We tend to talk mainly about the first and sometimes second groups. But all three deserve attention.
At Staines, and I suspect elsewhere, people in the third category (who make up an essential part of our clubs) are there by default. They are partners of members in the first two groups or are former members of the first two who haven't actually made a film or plugged in a cable for years. I don't think we can actively recruit them.

I think we need to broaden the scope of the "active film makers" to include not just those who wield a camera or sit behind an NLE. Dave may well have had the following in mind, but we need to make it clear in our recruitment that film makers include a much wider range of people, including actors, scriptwriters, set designers, prop makers and sound recordists. I believe it was Ned who opened my eyes to this on this very forum. Let's appeal to a wider range of people.

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:07 am
by col lamb
What are the benefits of being a member of the IAC?

1 - An outlet for your movies at BIAFF and regional level competitions
2 - Music license
3 - Cheaper insurance
4 - The mag
5 - Access to the Forum and e-mail group

What are the limitations
1 - Cost of subs
2 - Minimum events put on by the IAC to directly attract members
3 - The terms "Amateur" and "Film and Video Institute"

I am sorry to say this but...........there are just not enough benefits for any significant numbers to seriously consider joining the IAC FVI.

I wish I had a solution but dropping terms "Amateur" and "Film and Video Institute" would be a start, with the total cost of my movie making kit exceeding £10,000 I am definately NOT an amateur, nor are many IAC members you just have to look at the high quality movies linked to via the website to quickly determine that they have been created to a very high standard and one that regularly exceeds what is seen on the BBC on some of their programmes

Sorry but the first thing that has to change is the name, it need to be dynamic and progressive and one that will attract a new young generation
Secondly there needs to be a full national/regional training and resource centres made available
Then a national campagn to bring about a greater awareness of the works of the "new" organization

On the other hand being a member of a local club offers many benefits but at Preston there are only 15 of us and we have tried all ways to attract new members and in the last three years we have seen faces change but the numbers remain the same, so we for one would like to know the way forward

I am a member of the IAM (driving/motorcyclist) and each regional group regulary seeks new members by offering free assessment drives/rides which are offered via advertsement and at shows where we take our kit and set up a stall (Westmorland Show and Lancashire Show just to name two). So our motorcycle group which started as a handfull in 2006 now has well over 100 active members

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:45 pm
by Ian Woodward
To rid ourselves of the word Amateur from the name IAC – as we must (a membership card with the word Amateur on it sort of embarrasses me) - we need to change the name itself.

There will no doubt be a great reluctance to do so on the part of the IAC powers-that-be, perhaps for “historical reasons”, but, as everyone keeps reminding us, we need to keep up with the times and move forward.

Midland Bank had no apparent problem migrating to the new umbrella title of HSBC. Virtually overnight Air Miles became Avios and Norwich Union was reborn as Aviva.

As far as I know, this rebranding has done little harm to these international organisations. Quite the opposite, I suspect. It brought them screaming and kicking, smack, bang, wallop, into the 21st century.

So how about (to get the great grey cells working and the ball rolling) something like:

The British Union of Independent Film Makers?

Ian Woodward

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:55 pm
by Mike Shaw
I think there are many ways to attract people to come and visit a club ... but once there, they have to be persuaded to stay - and in my opinion, that's the hard part, where some clubs can fail miserably.

First - ways to get people through the doors. I've seen lots of successful ways to do that - from an attactive website, to (genuine and interesting) news items of club activities and events in the local press (as press releases - you don't have to pay for advertising space, and PR is far more effective anyway). One club I know put on special training sessions in 'open days' at their club, well promoted in the local press - on basic subjects like 'Turn Your holiday movies into real films', and 'How to film that wedding successfully'. That gets people of all ages into the clubroom.

The hard part, as I say, is getting them to come back as members. And I have seen it so many times - someone turns up to a meeting, keen and interested ... and they never turn up again aftwerwards.


In many cases, it's because the current members are far to 'clicky', chat in groups leaving the potential new members to fend for themselves. It isn't good enough for just one or two people to talk to the 'potentials' either - a job usually left to the chairperson, secretary, and maybe a 'membership' person. As many of the members as possible should chat and get involved as well - and not get over-engrossed in their own socialising. Maybe the 'potential' lives near one of the members and could be given a lift (an inducement to turn up again).

All sounds glaringly obvious? Of course. But I have seen it happen in clubs - a potential member, halfway through the evening, is left to fend for themselves ... or they have communication with just one or two members - and the rest of the membership, to them, looks like an impenetratable group. Hopefully the topic for the evening will interest them - but they will almost certainly be looking for the 'social' side of the club as well, and if they cannot relate to that ... bye bye!

As Dave says, 'amateur' as a word or concept doesn't really come into that aspect of acquiring new members. What the society is called is another issue: whatever it is called, it won't attract people through the doors just on its name.

The social side is very important.

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:04 pm
by Mike Shaw
The British Union of Independent Film Makers
Nice thought ... but I don't like 'Unions', and would prefer 'Society', and Independent Film Makers doesn't say 'not for money, just for fun' - it says 'Not part of a major Studio'.

Home /hobby / 'non-professional' moviemaking is where we're at. But of course, 'non'professional is read as un professional, just as amateur seems to be read as 'amateurish'. Bring back Latin, I say, where each word means the same for everyone. :)

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:50 pm
by Ian Woodward
Mike, in an earlier posting on this subject you observed: “Even 'non-commercial' has a bad connotation: in my advertising days, if a thing was non-commercial it wasn't viable”.

I totally agreed with you when I read it the first time. Now, on further reflection, I’m convinced of it.

To me, “non-commercial” means “rubbish” – that is, the product is deemed to be so badly made/created/filmed that, if it was put on the commercial market, it wouldn’t interest anyone and certainly wouldn’t sell a copy.

The tricky thing, of course, is to come up with the perfect word or description that we can use in place of “non-commercial” or “amateur” that exactly mirrors what we passionate, obsessive, hobbyist film-makers are about.

Personally, I’m not too fussed about what the title does NOT say – I’m thinking of, for instance, the American Motion Picture Society, which gives little away – rather than what it DOES say.

And if it says “amateur” or “non-commercial”, it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable because of the potential of how these descriptions might be interpreted in an unflattering way by a non-filming-making public.

The word derogatory springs to mind.

The British Association of Independent Film Makers?

It’s true, I am not part of a major studio. I’m an independent film-maker. And if anyone wishes to interpret this as describing someone who makes films for the love of it and not for money, then all to the good, because that’s exactly sums up what I do!

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Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:39 pm
by ned c
The question is how to attract new members. The problem is where are the potential new members and how to contact them. I suspect that the average age of the IAC board and of most clubs is in the near to retirement age group so perhaps this is the demographic that should be approached via organisations for the over 55s. I live in the USA now so am not aware of what these groups are in the UK but they are surely there. If on the other hand the wish is to attract the whole age range of movie makers then the needs of younger groups must be determined and they are; I suspect; very different to those of senior citizens.

The amateur question is actually important. If you want a pure amateur organisation as visualized by Mike then make it clear what an amateur is as it relates to the PERSON. It is not a person who makes wedding and event videos at the weekends; that is a professional, neither can you be a BBC cameraman during the week and an amateur at the weekendl! Once paid for an activity then you are a professional even if you are incompetent and the membership form must stress that the applicant does not and has never worked in any branch of the film or video industry. Similarly the entry form for the BIAFF must stress that no-one involved in the production has ever been in a paid position in film/video production. The BIAFF is all ready open to pro movie makers and a quick check of some past winners will confirm this. See how messy all this gets in the age when movie production has been made readily available to the masses? (By the way Mike as a professional writer we can't have you writing any scripts or narrations).

Alternatively define the film as "amateur" in that it has no commercial aspirations or expectations and no-one involved is paid for their contribution. OK so S. Spielberg and G. Lucas send in a BIAFF entry they made for fun; welcome it with open arms; the publicity would be great and given the vagaries of judging (let's not go there) it will probably be panned.

There is new world of movie making out there and the traditional amateur movements are in decline so a new paradigm is needed to serve the constituency of 21st Century movie makes at all levels ; good question Ivor.

ned c

Re: Attracting New Members

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:55 pm
by Stephen
Good article in the FVM leading to this great thread !

It is most encouraging to see the efforts being put into creating an interesting and forward thinking website for the IAC. This benefits not only the current membership but makes it an attractive window for the introduction into what the IAC can offer budding film makers, including those that visit the website through casual ‘surfing the net’

The inclusion within the website of easily accessible films is most definitely the way to go! (although the forum could do with some serious interaction from more film clubs, members and visitors!! and more great threads like this!!)

Films being viewed on the internet do not bode too well for the film clubs that meet up and down the country every week, albeit in ever decreasing numbers. Even the huge diverse hardware/software used by members makes for example technical nights very difficult to pitch to the mass audience.
But the way forward can still be a major positive one for the IAC and film clubs if they fully embrace the benefits of the internet and social media. Partnerships with established media on the net, manufacturers of film making equipment, competitions, film clubs running more interactive local website communications, Facebook, Twitter initiatives, not just a presence.

I used to regularly attend my local club, but due to pressures of work and my family life, found it increasingly difficult to put in the commitment that I felt was required. It is well known that the majority of members of film clubs are retired and by having that extra time they don’t have that work, family, film club balance to worry about.

Unfortunately that divide has got significantly wider over the years.

For film clubs and indeed the IAC it is unfortunate that most peeps that make films these days are not too interested in getting involved with committees, organising events etc The film making errrrrrr hobbyist and there are 10’s of 1000’s of them out there that make films, are quite happy to upload to the internet and allow their films to be accessed by whoever fancies it, without leaving the comfort of their home or if like me, the comfort of my ‘man den’ complete with computers WSTV Xbox and so on…

After some time out, I for one hope to get back into meeting some great people in the film making clubs around my region, but until then, I will still make films, still stay a member of the IAC (because of the real benefits posted by other peeps in this thread) still promote the IAC and film clubs, and will still enjoy my hobby without getting too hung up on all the things I need to do to just show my films.

I will still be a frequent visitor to the IAC website to watch some great films and communicate with fellow film making peeps !