Programmers are responsible for viewing and deciding on which films to show in their cinema or exhibition venue. Often film festivals will recruit a number of programmers to decide on which films will be invited to screen based on the vision of the Festival's artistic director.

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Skills needed to be a programmer

  • extensive experience identifying film audiences
  • knowledge of commercial or cultural remits
  • excellent communication and negotiation skills
  • understanding of contractual obligations
  • budget management
  • knowledge of funding sources

Ways to become a programmer

The Independent Cinema Office and Film Distributors Association both offer training schemes for those interested in being programmers. Many programmers progress to their role from related administrative or projectionist jobs in cinemas or exhibition venues, or from other areas of the industry. Basic management and financial experience are desirable and an interest in films is essential.

Job role and responsibilities

Programmers must view everything they select for exhibition or so often travel for screenings and festivals. They must build good relationships with distributors to ensure they secure the films they want and negotiate deals and contracts, while working within specific budgets. Depending on the size of their venues, a programmer may be responsible for marketing and promoting the films they choose. They may sometimes be required to do audience research. 

Find out more about working as a programmer

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