ABCinema Project

ABCinema Sprint 

Getting the next generation curious, engaged & excited about film heritage and culture.

At the end of March, as part of Flatpack Film Festival, we brought together a delegation of Europe’s leading film archives with some the most forward-thinking UK cinema practitioners as well as young people aged 16 - 25 actively involved in film projects for a 3-day sprint. This sprint focused on innovative and participatory approaches to engaging the next generation (16 – 25yrs olds) in film heritage and culture outside the formal education environment. 

The aim was to inspire, surprise and challenge. In the rapidly evolving and disruptive digital context of 'everything, everywhere, now’, we know there’s a real appetite for watching films and that digital is enabling film watching and film culture to be more accessible than ever; but what does this mean in practical terms for archives and cinemas and their communities? 

The sprint explored questions such as why and how should we try to reach those who don’t engage with film heritage? What are the opportunities that the digital context opens up in terms of participation and audience development on and offline? How can we re-image the way in which audiences are invited in and experience film? Can we think creatively “with" young people about engaging their generation in heritage film and culture?

A total of 45 people contributed to the sprint as a participant or a speaker over the 3-days, including representatives from Europe’s leading film archives, Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna (ITA), Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique (BE),Deutsches Film Institut (DE), Les enfants de cinéma (FRA), Eye Film Institute (NL), ACE - Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (BE).

Speakers included Rachel Van Riel from Opening the Book, Noel Goodwin from BFI Education and Engagement, Laura Harford from Floating Cinemas, Matt Mulligan from Compass Presents, Florine Wiebenga from MovieZone (EYE, Netherlands) and many more! The full programme and delegate’s list can be found here.

You can see some of the presentations given as part of the Sprint and Twitter comments from the event on the #ABCinemaUK Storify

To complement the ABCinema Sprint we ran a concurrent sprint, ABCinema My Flatpack, with young people aged 16 - 25 who are actively involved in film projects. This sprint was led by young YouTubers and journalists from Rife magazine, Into Film and Arts Connect West Midlands and focused aon the participant's experience of Flatpack Film Festival. Young participants were invited to explore the festival and report back on their experience, developing skills in blogging and vlogging, creating content for a YouTube channel, wordpress website and Storify.

25 young people participated in the sprint, which also brought them together with the international delegates taking part in ABCinemaUK for networking and ideas sharing.

You can see the results of the ABCinema My Flatpack sprint on their YouTube channel and on #ABCMyFlatpack Storify.

Part of ABCinema, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, this is a Watershed project with partners mac and Flatpack, the support of Into Film, Arts Connect West Midlands, Film Hub South West & West Midlands and the wider BFI Film Audience Network supported by the National Lottery through the BFI.

Flatpack offers an inspiring festival context for the sprint. Taking place in venues across Birmingham every March, Flatpack draws people from far and wide with a mixture of films, performances, contraptions and surprises, and has been described as “magnificently eclectic” (Time Out), “joyously inventive” (the Guardian) and “the UK’s most creatively curated film festival” (the Independent). Recurring themes include animation, music, artists’ film, archive discoveries, offbeat shorts for kids and live cinema. Joint presentations include A New Lease of Life: Panel: 

mac birmingham, a multi-discipline contemporary arts centre located in the heart of Birmingham, is the host venue for the sprint. Open year round, mac presents over 70 screenings per month, mac presents a unique independent film programme that appeals to the most diverse possible range of local audiences. Part of Europa Cinemas, a funding scheme which supports and advocates European film, mac also hosts festivals such as Flatpack, alternative content and outdoor screenings working in partnerships and in collaboration with its diverse audiences. 

Project Overview

ABCinema: Getting the next generation curious, engaged & excited about film heritage and culture


Sept ‘14 – July ’15

What is it? Seven leading European film archives and cinemas collaborate on a collective catalogue of films and contextualising activities, sharing best practice in approaches to audience development and film literacy across borders. 

Who is involved?

ABCinema is a project led by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna with partners Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, Deutsches Film Institut, Les enfants de cinéma, Eye Film Institute, ACE - Association des Cinémathèques Européennes and Watershed, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

What are we hoping to achieve?

ABCinema gives film archivist and exhibition practitioners from across Europe the opportunity to develop and share best practice in engaging the next generation (from 3 to 25 years olds) in heritage film and culture. The long-term ambition is to develop the film goers, makers and curators of the future.

What are the films?

The ABCinema films were selected by partners for their historical, contemporary and future relevance. The catalogue brings together films from different eras; forms and countries offering diverse pathways into the cultural richness of Europe film. Practical considerations were also taken into account in choosing the films and developing the linked activities:

- developed for and with the target groups (ranging from 3 to 25 years olds) to ensure that the content is relevant

- the majority of the films have little or no dialogue so they can be accessible

- rights clearances and availability of formats so that the films can be presented in various educational contexts in Europe. 


A series of practice-based case studies from partners involved will be published online offering practical insights and toolkits around the ABCinema collective catalogue of short archive films. The aim is to give film exhibition and archive practioners inspiration and practical information and materials to support the development of their own approach and activities around the ABCinema catalogue of films and beyond. ABCinema Sprint outcomes will be also disseminated online and at relevant conferences and events.

ABCinema Sprint project team

The overall project is led by Watershed (Film Hub South West & West Midlands Lead Organisation),acknowledged as a leader in cultural cinema with input from partsners mac and Flatpack and suppport from Into Film, Arts Connect West Midlands, and BFI FAN. Project manangement and faciliatation will be provided by Film Hub South West & West Midlands Producer Madeleine Probst and co-ordination support from Co-odinator Tiffany Holmes to ensure that the project stays on track and the impact of the activity is maximised.

The project is a BFI FAN Film Hub South West West Midlands project with support from the National Lottery through the British Film Institute.