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Iris Prize LGBT+ Festival Announces 2020 Winners

Short Calf Muscle, directed by Victoria Warmerdam, has been announced the winner of the Iris Prize 2020, Cardiff’s International LGBT+ Short Film Prize, supported by The Michael Bishop Foundation. This was the first time in the festival’s 14-year history that a film from the Netherlands has won. The £30,000 prize enables Victoria to make a new short film in Wales, becoming the thirteenth Iris production.  Better, directed by Michael J. Ferns, wins Best British Award.

The winners of all Awards categories were announced at a special awards ceremony on Saturday night marking the successful end to the unique virtual festival that has attracted a UK wide audience to watching film screenings and talks online for free, which included the UK premiere on opening night of Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely’s S.A.M. 


The awards show included performances by Welsh singer Casi Wyn and pop legend Heather Small.  

THE WINNERS 

IRIS PRIZE

The international winner of Iris Prize is Victoria Warmerdam for SHORT CALF MUSCLE from the Netherlands.

Philip Guttman, from the Iris Prize jury says,

Short Calf Muscle captures a universal sense of being misunderstood in an hilarious yet absurd comic tone, setting it apart in a class of its own. Piquant dialogue, accomplished storytelling and tongue in cheek acting are distilled into a potent black comedy, where Anders, a gay man, suddenly finds himself labelled to be a “gnome” by everyone around him, harkening to our own society that all too often misgenders or misidentifies others. Filmmaker Victoria Warmerdam masterfully tackles themes of prejudice and societal authoritarianism, captured through an impeccable Stepford style lens which contrasts the loss of control in a world gone mad. Ms. Warmerdam reveals herself to be a singular, exciting and rising comedy director.

The film was the chosen nomination of Iris partner festival Roze Filmdagen; Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival. Werner Borkes, the festival’s Director, said of Victoria’s win,

as a festival we are already extremely honored that we have been a nominating festival for years, but we are all the more proud that our nominee actually takes the prize home. (Eight times is a charm). It is great to see how very ‘Dutch’ the film is in tone and style, but still connects with an international audience through its original but still universal relatable story about whether or not to be different.

The shortlisted finalists also included Runner Up Victoria, as well as Boys and On My Way.

Of Victoria, jury members and previous Iris Prize winners Lara Zeidan and Sarah Smith say,

A brilliant setting for a simple and touching story perfectly contained within one scene. The shifting of perspectives deftly executed in the writing and directing gives voice to both characters’ complicated emotions. The performances, the pacing, the compositions, the colour palette, and the use of the Victoria Amazónica as metaphor, all work in harmony leading towards a beautifully poetic ending, and demonstrate a remarkable command of the craft of filmmaking.

Of Boys, Mikael Bundsen and Philip Guttman, say,

In Banim (Boys), filmmaker Lior Soroka, draws us into an aching coming of age story depicting one teen’s fight for independence and his mother’s struggle to let go, while simultaneously evoking questions about gender norms in contemporary society. With its riveting performances, the striking complexity in the character’s relationships, and for what is left unsaid, but deeply felt, Soroka has captured our hearts and our imaginations.

Of On My Way, Mikael Bundsen says, “Filmmaker Sonam Larcin crafts an intimate story potent with questions to reflect on long after the film’s running time. Complex characters navigating the conditions of a vulnerable migrant to a clandestine gay relationship teetering on the edge are masterfully brought to life by a stellar cast. It’s beautiful, accomplished and it leaves us passionate to see more”.

BEST BRITISH AWARD

The winner of Best of British short films is Scottish-born Michael J. Ferns for BETTER. The other films that made the final shortlist are Runner Up Queens, as well as The Passing and Wings.

Tim Highsted, Senior Editor, Acquired Feature Films for Film4, who chaired the jury for Best British Short, commented:

The quality and range of this year’s Best British Short film contenders has been excellent – so much so that the jury was spoiled in having to choose a winner. Michael J Fern’s short film Better was distinctive for its quietly controlled and beautifully orchestrated examination of gender as a young mother tries to cope with the bullying of her young son at school. Our other shortlisted titles, Queens, The Passing and Wings raised the bar in their unique portrayals and studies of LGBT+ lives and stories.

Additionally, cementing the first of a three-year sponsorship deal with Film4, all 15 films in Best British programmes will be available for free streaming on All 4 from 11th October.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

Best Performance in a Male Role in a Feature Film, sponsored by Attitude, was awarded to Leandro Faria Lelo from DRY WIND, directed by Daniel Nolasco and distributed by TLA Releasing.

Lewis Bayley, chair of Best Feature jury made up of film students from Bournemouth Film School, says,

The award for Best Performance in a Male Role is awarded to Leandro Faria Lelo in Dry Wind, whose compelling performance of sexual desire captivates the audience and explores the intensity of yearning in the monotonous confines of an oppressive system.

He adds,

an honourable mention to Oscar Chiu’s performance in The Teacher, where his gentle and tender performance exposes the audience to the realities of life in Taiwan as a queer teacher through his vulnerability, and spark that commands attention to this quiet protagonist.

Best Performance in a Female Role in a Feature Film, sponsored by Diva, was awarded to Lena Urzendowsy for COCOON. The winner was announced pop legend Heather Small.

Of Lena’s performance, Lewis says,

The award for Best Performance in a Female role goes to Lena Urzendowsky. Lena’s honest and raw portrayal of Nora in Cocoon captures a teenager in a time of self-discovery, complicated by the dramas and vices of those closest to her. In this beautiful coming-of-age story, Lena holds the attention in each frame she appears with quiet nuance and vulnerability.

“The jury would also like to draw attention to recognise the performance of Alexandra Grey in Gossamer Folds, whose warmth and determination to live authentically serve as a beacon of hope in a film where so many characters exist in a state of such uncertainty. Although the film is based in 1986, the relevance to the world today are particularly poignant and a reminder of work yet to be done, and Alexandra’s performance is nothing short of essential.

The Best International Feature Film Award, sponsored by Bad Wolf, is won by COCOON, directed by Leonie Krippendorff and is distributed in UK by Peccadillo Pictures.

Of Cocoon, Lewis Bayley says,

The winning film is an honest and open coming of age story, addressing its lead’s sexuality with delicacy and heart that speaks directly to personal experiences. The innocence of self-discovery, in the midst of the complexities of the lives of those around us are explored with nuance and authenticity. The supporting visages are dreamlike, relatable and beautifully rendered.

YOUTH JURY

The winner of the Youth Jury Award is WINGS from UK director Jamie Weston, and the runner-up is Luca Padrini’s When In Rome (Paese Che Vai).

The four short-listed films, chosen from 35 nominees for the main Iris Prize, were Wings, My God I’m Queer, When In Rome (Paese Che Vai) and Snake, which had been specially programmed by a group of young people from Into Film and Pride Cymru and then voted for by young people from schools across Wales.

AUDIENCE AWARD

One of the additional innovations for this year is the introduction of the Co-op Audience Award, the natural next step in the strong relationship with the Iris Prize, started by Co-op Respect. This year Co-op shoppers will be encouraged to watch the 35 short films – and vote for their favourite.

Those who votes will be eligible to win a trip to attend the 2021 Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival in Cardiff, the prize will include train travel within the UK, hotel accommodation and a full VIP Pass for two people. Other prizes include luxury Co-op Hampers, just in time for Christmas! When can I vote? Voting for the Co-op Audience Award opens on Wednesday 7 October and closes on Saturday 31 October 2020.

Lord Glendonbrook said during his address:

The Iris Prize continues to be the world’s largest short film prize and I’m delighted that through The Michael Bishop Foundation we have been able to support the winners, to create new short films. These Iris Productions are wonderful opportunities for the film makers to be given the freedom to share our stories to a world that sometimes ignore us and sometimes hate us.

Andrew Pierce, Iris Prize Chair says “Against the odds, film makers, sponsors and our UK audience have come together this week to celebrate our stories through film. As David Llewellyn mentioned duringIris Live!,“We may be watching these films in separate rooms, but we’re still watching them together.”

The main festival sponsors are: The Michael Bishop Foundation, Welsh Government, the BFI awarding funds from the National Lottery, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Film 4, University of South Wales, Co-op Respect, Bad Wolf, Gorilla Group, Peccadillo Pictures, Pinewood Studios, Attitude Magazine, Diva Magazine and The Ministry of Sound.

The festival also works in partnership with BAFTA Cymru, Pride Cymru and Stonewall Cymru.

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Dial F For Freelancer Launches Online, Making Space for Valuable Voices in Film Exhibition and Distribution

Thursday 8th October 2020: A network boasting over 250 members has unveiled their dedicated space celebrating the massive talents represented by the freelance cohort of the UK’s film exhibition and distribution sectors. Dial F for Freelancer is led by film freelancers for their peers, sharing past projects and reaching potential clients. Dial F for Freelancer is the first of its kind and the only dedicated space for freelancers working in film distribution and exhibition.

The current unfolding news regarding the future of film exhibition highlights the pressing need for this platform to exist. Whilst the film industry relies on freelancers, there are currently no formal structures to support them collectively:

“…more than half of the industry workforce are freelancers or mix freelance work with periods of employment. Freelancers are the lifeblood of our industry, yet they don’t have access to the benefits, security or workplace support of permanent employees.” – The Whole Picture Programme Report – The Film and TV Charity, 2020

The Dial F for Freelancer platform has been developed with the needs of freelancers at the forefront to celebrate the sector’s unique skills. The founding members are looking to reduce the barriers and labour to finding paid work by creating an ever-growing network of freelancers.

The grassroots-led project places the platform in the hands of the users rather than a third party. Users control their pitch and profile, choosing the projects of which they’re proudest to showcase. Members of Dial F for Freelancer are also supported with resources, contacts and opportunities to collaborate.

The origins of this concept began during discussions at This Way Up 2019 (the UK’s film exhibition industry conference), a sidebar talk for freelancers led by Toki Allison spoke about the need for an informal network to be created to provide peer to peer support and reduce the feelings of isolation which are prevalent in freelancing. In March 2020 as freelancers began to lose work due to the pandemic, Allison, along with Moira McVean and Jo Taylor-Hitchinson decided to make the network a reality.

Initially a Facebook group set up to support freelancers affected by the onset of the lockdown attracted over 250 members and the trio realised a more formal platform was needed. They were awarded a Community Grant from The Film and TV Charity and have gained further industry support which has allowed them to create the Dial F for Freelancer platform.

The Dial F for Freelancer Steering Group, comprising eight freelancers working in the sector, have worked with a developer to design and launch Dial F For Freelancer to the industry.

This project has been supported by The Film and TV Charity’s Community Grants, a fund from the Film Distributors’ Association, and with further contributions from film distributors, including Altitude Film Distribution, Bohemia Media and eOne. The new platform endeavours to celebrate the wealth of talent and expertise represented across the network, whilst also creating a warm and welcoming space for freelancers working in exhibition and distribution to build their profiles and networks in an effective and easy way. They also plan to build a collective public presence and signpost available support for members.

Jo Taylor, co-founder of Dial F for Freelancer said:

My freelance career has been powered by collaboration and with the invaluable support of my peers. Creating a network such as this has been an aspiration of mine for a long time and so it’s gratifying to be working with colleagues and supporters who feel the same. It is so exciting to see Dial F for Freelancer come to fruition giving our sector the spotlight it deserves.

Andy Leyshon, Chief Executive, Film Distributors’ Association said:

The varied nature of the films FDA members distribute are often reliant upon project-focused freelance expertise across film booking, marketing and publicity specialities. Freelancers have been hit especially hard across the film ecosystem lately and we are pleased to support this worthwhile initiative during these challenging times.

Mark Jones, Head of Publicity, Altitude Media Group said:

Freelancers have played an integral role in several of Altitude’s releases and it’s been brilliant for us to be able to collaborate with a range of dynamic individuals. We know one of the greatest challenges of freelancing is the absence of close knit ‘colleagues’ to introduce new ways of thinking, building skills and further opportunities. Dial F for Freelancer is the perfect dedicated platform to offer that expanded network to those in the industry and also give distributors such as ourselves the opportunity to discover new talent to work with us on our releases.

Timon Singh, Campaigns Manager, Film Hub South West said:

For the BFI FAN New Release scheme, freelancers have been invaluable both to venues and distributors. Venues are often short-staffed, so having someone available to help with social media marketing and promoting the film has been incredibly useful for many. For distributors, freelancers also help to give their titles a fighting chance in an increasingly populated marketplace by promoting their films in more rural venues and organising events around screenings that make them stand-out from the crowd.

Anthony & Teanne Andrews, co-founders, We Are Parable said:

The need for a platform that can bring together freelancers who work in either film exhibition and/or distribution is absolutely essential. It provides the industry with a key place to seek out a wide variety of talented people, enabling opportunities to be visible for all, as well as offering freelancers a network to keep informed of an ever changing sector.

Anna Navas, Director and Programmer, Plymouth Arts Centre said:

Here at PAC we really value the work that freelancers do and have worked with many on different projects over the years. What they bring is new energy, insights and a whole world of different experiences and ways of working. What that does is invigorate organisations in a way that should be celebrated. The work they do is invaluable to the independent exhibition sector.

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Festival UK* 2022 announces that applications are open for a unique and pioneering, £3 million funded R&D opportunity.

Festival UK* 2022 today announces that applications are open for a unique and pioneering, £3 million funded R&D opportunity. The search is on for the greatest minds and brightest talents drawn from the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, and from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to form Creative Teams capable of developing major public engagement projects to showcase the UK’s creativity and innovation on a global scale.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

Today marks the start of an exciting and demanding competition to find the brightest and best innovators in the UK as we begin the countdown to Festival UK 2022.We’re looking for the finest creative minds to help show the world what is possible when England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland come together and champion all that is great about our United Kingdom. The winning applicants will receive £3 million to turn their ideas into spectacular, unforgettable realities. This investment will support jobs and create new work across these sectors in all four corners of the UK as we help our cultural and creative industries recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture said:

This is a new and exciting opportunity for innovative minds from Scotland’s renowned Arts and Technology sectors. These challenging and uncertain times have had a profound effect on the culture sector and creative industries, and so I welcome this announcement as a boost to provide opportunities for work for artists, practitioners and organisations across the culture sector and beyond. The festival is an excellent way to highlight the power of culture and creativity to transform lives, to improve health and wellbeing, to contribute to the growing economy, and to bring our diverse communities together. I look forward to seeing the projects that are developed both in Scotland and across the other UK nations as part of the festival.

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas said: 

I’m hugely excited by another opportunity to raise Wales’ international profile as a small, creative nation, brimming with talented and friendly people, on the world stage. Coronavirus has placed massive and unprecedented challenges on the very fabric of Welsh life, equally so for our friends across the UK, and we applaud the resilience and creativity on display so far. This festival presents a golden opportunity for our burgeoning creative minds to thrive post-pandemic and once more showcase our talent to the world.

This investment comes at a time of particular need and marks the beginning of a process of development for inspirational projects that have mass appeal. As we look towards a near-future that will mark the transition into recovery, we look forward to a time when people will feel able to celebrate pride in communities and the places they call home.

Martin Green, Chief Creative Officer for Festival UK* 2022, said:

I am thrilled to be leading this project. Festival UK* 2022 will be a series of ten large-scale, thought -provoking, wonder-inducing projects. They will bring people together in unique and astounding ways and showcase our innovation and creativity across the globe. To create work that is ground-breaking and compelling we are investing in idea creation through this R&D phase. It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with colleagues from different creative fields. A chance to discover new collaborators and celebrate under-represented talents. The aim is a national celebration of all our creativity. An unprecedented demonstration of the crucial, magical role that creativity can play to make life better.

At the end of the application process up to 30 teams, each receiving up to £100,000, will be selected to participate in the R&D programme to originate compelling, ambitious and extraordinary ideas for projects that have the potential to reach millions of people. Ideas are not a requirement of application process but Creative Teams must be able to demonstrate they have the skills and collaborators needed to meet a set of criteria against which they will be assessed.

£120million of new investment has been allocated to the festival by the UK Government (including £22.8m to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland devolved administrations), which will ultimately allow for the commissioning of up to 10 major projects in the final public programme for 2022. The festival will create opportunities for jobs within sectors significantly impacted by COVID-19.

Four of the ten commissions will each be led by England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, who will directly appoint up to two Creative Teams drawn from within their nations to take part in the R&D process.

Six commissions will be driven by Creative Teams from across the UK and beyond.

All ten commissions will be global in reach. Creative Teams will demonstrate the vital and inspirational role that creativity can play in our changing world; how unforgettable experiences can make life better.

Festival UK* 2022 will present the outcomes of the R&D work, a nationwide expression of innovative possibilities, as a public resource designed to inspire the next generation of UK creatives.

The ten commissions will be launched under a new festival name at the end of 2021 and take place throughout 2022.

R&D Timeline

9 September Registration & Applications Open
16 October 3pm Deadline for submissions
16 November – 31 January R&D Programme
1 – 26 February R&D Presentations and Shortlisting

Full details of the R&D Opportunity, Application Process and Guidelines can be found here.

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Into Film’s “Cinema’s That Made Me”: Pauline Williams From Off Y Grid, North Wales

With many cinemas still closed due to COVID-19, we’re continuing to celebrate independent venues and exhibitors across the UK in our series Cinemas that Made Me. Below we spotlight Pauline Williams from Off y Grid (Off the Grid), a multi-venue cinema project supported by Film Hub Wales, that aims to reduce isolation and increase engagement with British and independent film.

The Off y Grid project connects a collection of venues across North Wales, catering to rural audiences and celebrating a sense of place and heritage. They provide seasonal programming, with the venues working together to attract audiences. Project Manager Pauline Williams explains how this great collaborative effort benefits audiences and venues across North Wales, and reminisces about the early cinema experiences that continue to inspire her work today.

What does Off y Grid offer audiences?

More people. More films. More spaces. That’s the aim of the Off y Grid (OYG) project. OYG coordinates a unique partnership between seven venues in North Wales that work together in order to promote independent films, British and world films to audiences in rural areas. OYG also offers an array of classic films as well as celebrating Wales’ heritage through film archives.

The seven centres – CellB, Galeri, Pontio, Neuadd Dwyfor, Neuadd Ogwen, Tape Community Music & Film and Theatr y Ddraig – offer different experiences in terms of their location and spaces but share the same mindset with Welsh language culture, heritage and accessibility being central to the provision. By collaborating, we can offer more challenging films to a wider audience. By sharing ideas, we can create new cinematic experiences in the area.

Funded by Film Hub Wales, the project increases activities across North Wales in areas that often suffer from a lack of funding and a lack of artistic events. Our events forge links with the community and offer an artistic provision, encouraging and broadening horizons through film. As well as showing films we offer extra activities (like Q&A sessions) and we coordinate with film festivals and cinematic events in Wales and beyond.

We collaborate with many regular partners, but we are also ready to broaden our horizons with new partners in order to promote films. Recently we have been arranging a pop-up cinema to local communities with the aim of expanding our provision in this field as well as continuing to develop an audience of all ages in the area.

What was your first job in the film industry, and how did you end up managing the Off y Grid project?

After starting my career at the BBC in Cardiff and being trained to work on drama and television series, I moved on to work freelance before joining Gaucho as a producer and collaborating with the director Endaf Emlyn. The production company was a key contributor in the Welsh film industry, and I was responsible for the production of such successful films as Un Nos Ola, Gadael Lenin, and Y Mapiwr as well as individual dramas and series for television.

It’s my love for film and the urge to share that enthusiasm that drives my energy on the OYG project.

Did film and the cinema have an important impact on you earlier in life?

As a child, attending the weekly film club on Saturday mornings at the Majestic in Caernarfon was a magical experience. There was nothing better than waiting in the auditorium for the lights to go down slowly and the curtain to be fully opened to reveal a giant screen. Being in that darkness feeling as if in another world was such a memorable experience. I remember going with my mother to see Summer Holiday and the colours blinding my eyes. But more than that was the feeling that was stirred inside me by such powerful films.

Later I would regularly go the Coliseum in Porthmadog and Forum in Blaenau Ffestiniog (unfortunately none of these cinemas exist now). Nothing can compare to being partly in darkness and being whisked away to another world. There are no limits to the imagination. Cinema’s influence on my early years was most definitely key to my career choices.

How have those venues affected how you work today?

The experiences I had watching films on the big screen and losing myself in another world in local, community cinemas inspires me to offer similar experiences to today’s audiences. Going to the cinema was a regular, affordable experience and the programming was varied in such a way that meant that audiences could enjoy all types of films, and all on their doorstep.

Watching a movie on the big screen is a magical, enchanting experience. Being part of an audience that experiences a common emotion is an inclusive, mystical feeling. A film can make us marvel. It offers a key to other worlds. It evokes emotions. It is inclusive and transformative.

While Off y Grid venues have been closed due to COVID-19, have you begun any new initiatives to reach audiences at home?

CellB have been working assiduously to maintain and promote Gwallgofiaid (a not-for-profit that provides training for young people) by arranging online sessions with Rhys Ifans as a mentor for a short film making project.

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This Way Up Development Forum: Call for Participants

BFI’s Film Audience Network is looking for a group of creative and committed individuals to join the This Way Up Development Forum. The role of Forum is to support and shape the programme for the annual conference, now in its seventh year.

Background

This Way Up (TWU) is the annual UK film exhibition innovation conference that promises to inspire and enlighten, provoke and challenge.

With audience behaviour changing at an accelerating rate it’s more crucial that This Way Up provides a space where film exhibitors come together to discuss the pressing issues, to learn about new models, new thinking and new opportunities and to meet each other to share our experiences.

TWU was created by Film Hub Scotland and Film Hub North in 2014 and is a key part of the BFI Film Audience Network’s Member Support and Development programme. The event is produced in collaboration with Film Hub Midlands with significant input from the other Hubs within the FAN and key partners of the network.

With previous editions taking place in Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool and Nottingham, 2020 sees This Way Up adapt to the current global health crisis. Further details on how this year’s conference will be delivered to follow.

This Way Up Development Forum

For the 2020 edition we are inviting a group of up to 8 people to support in the development of ideas, content and future ambitions.

We’re looking for curious, imaginative, inspiring, playful and engaged individuals from a range of backgrounds and with a range of specialisms. We’re looking for people with a passion; whether they be long-term professionals or volunteers doing it in their spare time.

We are hoping for genuine, insightful, constructive input from you and will be sharing information that is potentially unstructured or in early drafts so ask that this be kept in strictest confidence.

The Development Forum will: 

  • Have key experience in film exhibition and be able to visualise the potential of TWU
  • Be able to contribute to collaborative discussions thinking creatively to produce a programme of high quality
  • Be willing to work as a member of a team, to state personal convictions and, equally, to accept majority decisions and be tolerant of other views
  • Be able to act with integrity and in the best interests of the FAN, avoiding personal conflicts of interest

We’re very keen to work with people from a range of backgrounds and lived experiences, so encourage people from under-represented backgrounds – young people, socio-economically diverse, D/deaf and disabled, Black, Asian and minoritised ethnicities, LGBTQIA+ – to apply.

Your commitment to us:

  • To advise and support us in shaping a creative, vibrant and fresh programme for TWU
  • To attend the first online development meeting on 20th August
  • To attend the second online development meeting in early October
  • To participate in This Way Up online/in Bristol on 3rd and 4th December

Our commitment to you:

  • £500 fee for participation
  • Recognition for contribution towards TWU 2020 programme
  • We understand many barriers exist for people wishing to take part in this type of group so can offer support for childcare, access costs and other costs you may need covered, please speak to us if you have any questions about this.

Timeline:

Monday 20 July: Inviting applications

Monday 3 August: Deadline for applications

Between 10-13 August: Telephone or email interviews

Friday 14 August: Confirmation of Development Forum Team

Thursday 20 August: First online Development Forum Meeting (4hrs minimum, with breaks)

How to Apply:
If you are interested, send an email to: sayhi@thiswayupcon.com by Friday 3 August, stating the following:

  • Your current role, interests, passions or profession
  • A short statement (no longer than 200 words) on why you are interested in joining the Forum and what experience (professional or personal) you bring
  • Your contact information, email address and telephone number
    Whether you would like a call back to talk about childcare or access costs

Find out more:  
www.thiswayupcon.com
www.twitter.com/thiswayupcon

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Film Feels – Connecting film fans with online cinema
UK-wide film programme, Film Feels Connected, brings a whole new dimension to lockdown for film fans

Streaming services added 4.6 million subscribers in the first eight weeks of UK lockdown. As we’ve acclimatised to COVID-19 restrictions, a major season of film from the BFI Film Audience Network has been giving film fans a whole new world of film to explore.

Bringing together more than 50 programmes from UK cinemas, festivals and film societies, the season offers UK film fans new ways to connect with unique, bespoke and diverse film screenings and special events, beyond the tried and tested streaming platforms.

Upcoming highlights include:

  • Africa in Motion: Looking Back, Reaching Forward, August 2020. Screenings of classic and contemporary African films, plus discussion to explore and critique, representations of Blackness on-screen.
  • Doc‘n Roll Film Festival: We Out Here Festival x Doc‘n Roll, 19-22 August. This partnership between Doc n Roll and Gilles Peterson’s We Out here Festival will present Music docs + Q&As exploring Black excellence and anti-racism in British music history
  • Kino Klassika: Klassiki – Cinema on the Hop, May-August 2020. An online weekly curated selection of Soviet, Russian, Caucasian and East European cinema from early silent cinema, to masterpieces of animation, from post-war classics to contemporary Cannes winners. Coming up in August is Tashkent Film Encounters: a season of rare gems from Central Asia.
  • Matchbox Cineclub: Tales from Winnipeg 28-31 August. Matchbox present a limited season in collaboration with the Winnipeg Film Group, including rare and exclusive work from John Paizs, Guy Maddin, Kevin Nikkel & Dave Barber. The season and all additional content will feature brand-new SDH/captions for D/deaf audiences.
  • Pilot Light TV Fest: Season 5, the Digital Special, 15-16 August. Presenting 23 brand new TV Pilots and web series for audiences to obsess over, as well as meeting the talent behind them with a selection of Q&A’s and video introductions.
  • Slapstick Festival: Laughter Out of Lockdown, April-August 2020. All your classic comedy needs from silent short films to Comedy quizzes and Q&As featuring comedy legends Robin Ince, Lucy Porter and Rob Brydon

Film Feels is a National Lottery funded project designed to bring new, off-the-beaten track, films to those who have spent lockdown completing Netflix, searching every corner of Amazon Prime for something a bit different or have had all the Disney+ they can handle.

This summer, Film Feels Connected invites audiences to join in with over fifty online film events; ranging from watch-alongs to live conversations with directors, filmmakers and critics, to film festivals, workshops and at-home creative activities.

We’re spending almost three hours a day watching TV and films during lockdown2,” said Annabel Grundy, Film Feels Connected project lead, “so Film Feels Connected adds a whole new dimension to the kinds of things readily available. From Russian cinema to Japanese animation, award-winning short films, queer cinema and much needed comedic relief, we’re working with organisations and cinemas all over the UK who are selecting films they love, to share with audiences online.

Although cinemas were given the green light to open in England on 4 July, many smaller independent cinemas in the UK, unable to open at reduced capacity, are making plans to reopen later in Summer and the early Autumn.

Greg Walker, Festival Director at Pilot Light, one of the Film Feels Connected participating organisations, says:

COVID-19 has thrown many organisations a curveball with their physical festival delivery, so we’re very excited for the opportunity to connect with new and existing audiences online with our eclectic selection of TV Pilots and Web Series. We hope this format keeps our loyal audiences coming back and, also reaches new people around the country hungry to discover fresh, diverse & talented voices working in and breaking through Indie TV.”

The team behind Film Feels Connected hope that while the cinemas are dark over the summer, curious film fans will visit the Film Feels website and take a risk on some true cinematic gems. All chosen by respected cinema programmers, film festivals and cinephiles who want to share their passion for cinema.

Independent venues and festivals really care about their audiences, and so many organisations have quickly pivoted to an online programme, to connect with people and try new ways of working even in the face of challenge and uncertainty. From community film club watch-alongs to experimental programmes of new work from arts collectives, the opportunity for audiences to discover and share new films and experiences is alive and well,” says Annabel, “plus, the chance to get closer to the directors and writers behind the films with online discussions and interviews, is greater than ever before; particularly for those who are isolated or unable to access physical venues at this time. Film still has the power to connect us all.

Visit filmfeels.co.uk to find out about the all the films and events you can join in with over the summer.

Download the full press release here

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Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival to celebrate their 10th anniversary online

On July 25, at 11am/6pm, a special edition of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival will be held in honour of its 10th anniversary on YouTube. The festival will present a free online screening of shorts from an all-female line-up of directors ranging from university students to the current crop of animators working today and an animation industry legend who we are celebrating with a centrepiece presentation featuring an interview we have recorded with her.

The Animators

Fusako Yusaki (湯崎夫沙子)

Fusako Yusaki (湯崎夫沙子)

Yusaki is an award-winning claymation pioneer who emerged in the 1960s after moving to Milan and establishing her own independent studio, Studio Yusaki. Her works consist of commercials, films, and children’s television programmes which were made for public broadcasters such as RAI and NHK. Yusaki’s famous works include clay animation advertisements for the liqueur Fernet-Branca, and popular TV character Peo the blue dog. We have programmed four of her works and have an interview with her where she talks about her career.

Miho Yata (やたみほ)

The King of Amechau Country

Tokyo-based Miho Yata is a graduate of Shirayuri Women’s University, and is currently a part-time lecturer there. Since 1999, he has produced many animations and content, producing for TV commercials, teaching materials, picture books and illustrations, as well as holding workshops on animation, and visual toys. Her works are based on the art of knitting and her most famous work is Knit & Wool, which airs on NHK E-TV for kids early in the morning. We have programmed Amechu to show what she can do.

Arisa Wakami (若見ありさ)
The story of Toto-chan in Mom’s belly, followed by little Takuta being born.

Birth-the dance of life.

Arisa Wakami is a professor at Tokyo Zokei University and a lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design. More importantly, she is an animator and works with both hand-drawn and stop motion animation who has utilised a range of “materials” from people to sand on glass boards. Her works cover films, TV programmes and workshops and they feature poetic imagery and have been screened at famous festivals around the world. We have programmed, three films including “Blessing,” which is a stop motion animation of a baby and its birthday presents.

Mone Kurita (栗田 百嶺)

A day when became a Asparagus man

Kurita represents the next generation of animation talent. A recent graduate of Tokyo Polytechnic University, she combines colourful hand-drawn images with computer manipulation. Her work, A day when became a Asparagus man, has been selected for the Tokyo Anime Award Festival. We have selected her film Brassiere Cat as the title we will screen.

We will also have a selection of graduate works from some of the students at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts (film titles will be confirmed shortly).

This screening is free to watch. This has been made possible with supported from Film Feels Connected and is supported by Film Hub Wales as part of the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN), made possible by the National Lottery.

The Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival relies on sponsors and donors to help us deliver screenings. If you would like to show your support, you can do so with a voluntary contribution at the festival’s Patreon page. Alternatively you can support the festival without paying extra money by signing up to Easyfundrasing and choosing to support Kotatsu. When you shop via Easyfundrasing website, a percentage of your purchase will be automatically donated to the festival. If you are shy, you can choose a setting that allows you to be an anonymous supporter.

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Savoy Theatre, Monmouth
Into Film’s ‘Cinemas That Made Me’: Chris Ryde From Monmouth’s Savoy Theatre
With cinemas closed due to COVID-19, Into Film are celebrating venues and cinema operators across the UK in a new series, Cinemas that Made Me. Here they pay tribute to a Film Hub Wales member, The Savoy Theatre in Monmouth, Wales, and its Director and General Manager Chris Ryde.

The Savoy has a long and fascinating history. It is one of the oldest working theatres in Wales, and is located on the oldest known theatre site in the country. Today it’s a mixed-arts venue, programming films and event cinema alongside live music, comedy and more. Director and General Manager Chris Ryde has been working at the Savoy Theatre in various roles since 2009, and brings a wealth of industry experience with him. Here, he offers some insight into the venue’s significance to South Wales as both a nostalgic link to the past and a much-loved present-day destination that has adapted to many challenges in order to survive. Long may it continue!

What does the Savoy Theatre mean to its local community?

For many, it represents a link to their past and recalls either their movie-going heritage or a link to places they were brought up. It’s a place where films were meant to be seen. It is not a box or a multiplex; it is a purpose-built venue in which films are meant to be enjoyed. Our Art Deco design motif brings back the feel of movie-going in its heyday and gives a holistic experience to customers, as they can read all about the building and put their visit into context. It is a constant joy to see the look on people’s faces as they enter the auditorium from the street and realise they have walked into a piece of history.

Where did your own history with cinema begin? 

I am delighted to say that the cinema that shaped my life is still going. The Ritz in Belper, Derbyshire, which I visited for the first time in 1957, and is still in operation thanks to a husband-and-wife team (the Mundins) who bought it, restored it, and made it operational. I visited them two years ago and it was a magical experience to go back.

What was your first job working with film?

My first job in the film industry was as a trainee producer in the 1970s. I worked with Nic Roeg, Adrian Lyne, and Ridley and Tony Scott. From 1977-2012 I worked for Equity, the union for performers and creative practitioners, which brought me into contact with plenty of filmmakers, and I spent many an hour on film sets.

What initiatives are you most proud of having worked on at the Savoy Theatre?

The most successful by far was re-introducing live entertainment, because it has been a massive success, and is what people most celebrate. Second to that was getting the funds secured for digital exhibition back in 2013. We had no money and there was a real prospect that we would not be able to survive as a first-run cinema, but we got there.

While cinemas are closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, have you begun any new initiatives to reach audiences at home?

The lockdown has had a big impact on our team, with almost all of our staff furloughed. Sadly this means we do not have the capacity to start any new projects right now, but we are keeping in touch with our audiences through newsletters and social media. We’re running a fundraiser to help the Savoy Theatre through this difficult time, and still welcoming supporters to our Friends of the Savoy scheme.

Once cinemas can reopen which film would be your first choice to see on the big screen?

The film that most exemplifies the spirit of the Savoy: The Smallest Show on Earth with Peter Sellers and Margaret Rutherford, made in 1957. I’d love to play it here.

If you’re a fan of the Savoy Theatre and would like to support them at this difficult time, you can donate to Chris’s fundraiser, Savoy Survival. If you’d like to support other independent cinemas in the UK, consider donating to the UK Cinema Fund. These donations will be added to the BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund and used to offer critical relief and business continuity to exhibitors across the UK.

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Bfi Film Forever
COVID-19: an update from the BFI’s Screen Sector Task Force

BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts sets out how the task force is working to secure screen sector recovery.

There is a huge amount of work being done across the sector in response to the COVID-19 crisis and it’s been brilliant to see the way everyone has come together. I just wanted to express my own thanks for the support I have had and also to give you an update on the progress of the Screen Sector Task Force and our work with Government as we turn attention to the recovery phase. The Task Force is convened by the BFI and brings together organisations from across the full breadth of the UK”s screen industries, to develop a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis and shape how to get the sector back up and running quickly and safely.

The Task Force has been split into five sub groups (inward investmentindependent film productionTV production and broadcastingdistribution and exhibition and video games) where immediate priority has been given to the following three cross-cutting issues – health and safety codes of practiceinsurance; and the knock on impact on the cost of production. The drafting and evidence gathering work on each of these strands is being led by a specialist group and then shared with the other Task Force groups and beyond. We are working to ensure that recommendations from the Task Force to Government are well evidenced and scalable to meet the needs of different parts of the screen eco-system, and also work together to ensure that no part of the sector or its workforce is left behind and that all specificities are considered.

1. Codes of Practice

With a focus on health and safety, the sub groups have been developing codes of best practice that are endorsed by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure that film and TV productions of all sizes and cinemas can get back up and running as quickly and as safely as possible.

The inward investment group led by the British Film Commission (BFC) has drafted a set of codes of practice for film and high-end television drama production. These have been out to consultation and shared with Government and the hope is to have them completed and rolled out for productions by the end of May and provide detailed and comprehensive guidance for returning to work and resuming production as safely as possible. They have been developed to meet the needs of both studio and independent production, although productions will still need to make sure they satisfy any requirements put in place by insurers, financiers or completion bonders. The codes of practice are designed to act as a resource for productions based in each nation of the UK as lockdown is eased in each of them respectively. They will also read across to the guidelines developed for television produced and published by the broadcasters and Pact today and which you can read here.

The UKCA and FDA have led a working group for Distribution and Exhibition to develop plans for the reopening of cinemas. The Government’s recovery strategy states that cinemas in England will potentially be able to open on 4 July at the earliest and the Task Force is working with the DCMS to ensure this change to lockdown rules is introduced at the best possible time for all venues. At the same time it is gathering evidence to propose what additional support might be needed specifically for the exhibition sector.

2. Insurance

Cover for COVID-19 is an issue for both film and TV productions and could be a barrier to the Government’s return to work plans. A specialist insurance sub-group is looking at potential solutions to this problem (led by Pact as part of the TV and broadcasting group). The Task Force is working hard to ensure that the scale of the problem is evidenced for Government and that the sector is represented on any wider insurance conversations across Whitehall. Insurance is also an issue to be considered with regard to Distribution and Exhibition.

3. Cost of Production

The working groups are calculating how much it could cost to implement codes of practice for returning to work in their respective areas. Different budget production levels are being costed out and in the case of exhibition, the anticipated reduced audience capacity as well as unknown levels of audience anxiety are being factored in. This will allow us to understand the financial viability of a return to work for productions and exhibitors of all sizes and will inform Task Force discussions with Government regarding support for this process.

The BFI are updating information regularly on our website about working in the industry during COVID-19, support packages and further sources of information can be found here.

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Cineworld Cardiff
Cineworld: Event Working and Social Media Scheduling by Emily

As well as continuing to learn all about the programming at Cineworld, and even creating the schedule for a film myself, I was also given the opportunity to encounter other aspects of the exhibition sector. Something I was especially looking forward to discovering more about was social media scheduling/marketing as this is an area I could picture myself working in in the future.Screenshot 2020-03-26 at 11.28.51.png

After meeting the member of staff who runs the social media, I was briefed about his role each week which involves scheduling the Facebook posts for the following week and putting up posters throughout the building. As this doesn’t tend to take him more than a day to complete, and similarly to the staff working on programming, he also works on front of house on the other days serving customers at the tills and checking tickets before customers enter the screening room.

I never quite realised how much thought had to go into the planning process of the social media. Because of the Facebook algorithm, for example, they aim to only post 3 statuses at peak times (between 10:00am and 2:00pm) throughout the week to ensure as many people as possible are seeing the posts.

If any events are coming up or a new film release, he tries to make sure these feature on their social media. And sometimes head office make specific requests about what should be promoted that week. Together we undertook the careful research task to discover which film poster was the most appropriate to use, being an official poster instead of a fan-made one, for example. Precision and an eye for detail were required when ensuring that we attached the correct link to take customers straight onto Cardiff Cineworld when booking tickets.

The layout of the post tends to include: the film/event title, a brief synopsis of the film/event, the link to book tickets and the film/event poster. 

Learning about the attention to detail and thought that has to go into each and every Facebook post as well as how to use Facebook as a marketing tool was interesting. Although I did get to help with this role and learnt a new side of marketing, I believe I already had some pre-existing knowledge on the subject.

What I really developed from this experience on social media was my professionalism in terms of language skills when marketing online to customers and attempting to entice them into booking tickets and why Cineworld should be the place they choose to go to.

Once the social media posts had all been scheduled, myself and the social media programmer went for a walk around the building to see what posters needed to be taken down and if any new ones had arrived to be put up. He explained how Cineworld’s policy was to take down the posters as soon as the film has been released so a new poster promoting an upcoming film could go in that space. The staff are then allowed to take posters that are no longer in use. I even got to take a Little Women (Gerwig, 2019) poster home for my flat..

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Untitled Design 2
MUBI launches fundraising campaign to support cinemas in the UK through BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund

Curated streaming service and theatrical distributor MUBI has created a UK Cinema Fund to help support the exhibition sector across the UK impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

A united front: London’s Genesis Cinema joins MUBI and other cinemas in raising awareness of the new UK Cinema Fund.

The fund has been started with a £10,000 donation from MUBI, and the campaign aims to raise £100,000. The total raised will be donated to the BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund, which was set up this month by the BFI and its UK-wide BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) to offer critical relief and business continuity to exhibitors across the UK.

Donations will be used to support independent cinemas, film festivals and other organisations whose mission to bring fantastic cinema to audiences across the UK is now impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these small and medium sized businesses are now facing permanent closure. These organisations will range in scale and type but they all share a passion for the best and broadest in UK and world cinema.

To raise awareness of the initiative and drive further support, MUBI has collaborated with cinemas across London to hire their marquees to display a defiant message of solidarity. Cinema partners include the Phoenix Cinema, which was built in 1910, the family-run Genesis Cinema, which has been central to the arts community since the mid-nineteenth century, the Grade II listed Rio Cinema and Catford Mews, which only opened seven months ago and quickly established itself as a key community cinema.

Efe Cakarel, Founder and CEO of MUBI said:

Cinemas and their staff are our partners, friends and colleagues. We have been working closely with UK festivals and cinemas for years and have been deeply saddened seeing the impact of the closures. We want to support them in any way we can during this incredibly difficult time, because we can’t imagine a world without them. We hope this fund gives them some of the support they need to reopen as soon as it’s possible.

Ian Wild, CEO of Showroom Workstation said:

In these unprecedented circumstances it is heartening to see MUBI support the independent exhibition sector with this initiative. We hope that the fund reaches its target to help us provide more vital support through the BFI FAN Resilience Fund.

The fundraising campaign runs until Monday 25 May 2020 and the webpage for the fund is now open to donations from anyone that wants to contribute here: gofundme.com/dearvirus

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The Riverfront
A Day in the Life at Riverfront by Malu

My placement at Riverfront started on the first week of February. As excited as I was from what I knew about the venue and their initiative, I also did not know what to expect. The exhibition environment was something completely new to me, having only worked in distribution and production before. I was looking forward to understanding how and why films are classified and programming works but was also slightly intimidated by Riverfront. A well-established arts centre at the heart of Newport known for the grand scale of its events and of its venue itself seemed like too much of a challenge for someone with academic ambitions to start off in the exhibition sector. But to my delight, it turned out to be a great experience.

Not having a specific role allowed me to work on a variety of things but my only ‘permanent’ task was ushering. A relatively simple duty that involves mainly checking tickets and showing people to their seats when necessary, ushering is not only an opportunity to watch great films but also a way to get know the kind of audience that Riverfront attracts firsthand. It’s also an amazing job if you’re into people watching – you get to see the full range of human emotions. I’ve seen a couple of the films I was ushering for before, so being able to rewatch them and pay more attention to the audiences’ reactions is an amazing reminder of the emotional power films have on us. Another perk of ushering is getting to interact with the audience and indulge in conversation afterwards, hearing their fresh thoughts on the film. Since all cinemas have a unique audience profile, getting their feedback and opinions on the films is key to creating a buzz and ensuring the high-quality experience they are looking for.

Getting to know the customers is also crucial when diversifying and developing audiences through experimental cinema and alternative content, something that Riverfront is proud to do through screenings of foreign language, independent and arthouse films.

Besides ushering for the screenings of So Long, My Son (2019), Cats (2019) and 1917 (2019), I also worked on the baby-friendly screenings – For Crying Out Loud – of Little Women (2019) and Jojo Rabbit (2019). While the suspicious looks I got for not having a baby with me were probably the most amusing part of that experience, it was still an interesting environment to be in. It’s a completely different kind of event, where the films work only as an excuse for parents to go out and have a day off. For those screenings, there’s a soft level of lighting in the cinema, the volume is lower and there’s soft matting for the babies, even if one of them mistook Taika Waititi’s Hitler for the real man and tried to crawl out of the cinema in fear. At the baby-friendly screenings, I quickly realised that the film is not the focal event and so the main job when ushering for those is catering to the special needs of the audience. That means providing care and support from arrival to departure, as well as maintaining good audience experience through screen alignment, correct sound and light levels appropriate to keep the babies comfortable without sacrificing the parents’ cinematic experience.

For Crying Out Loud

 

I worked closely with Andrew who, as the box office manager, is responsible for booking screenings. Riverfront only screens films six weeks after their original release as their licence is considerably cheaper, so much of our time when researching films to book was spent making sure that six weeks have passed before the date of its proposed screening. As Riverfront only has one cinema screen that is also used for other purposes, the rest of the process was one long and arduous task of booking the room, contacting the distributors of the film and agreeing on a split of profits, and notifying the financial department to authorise the transaction. Once that was done, we’d finally update the website with the confirmed dates/times, synopsis and photos of the film. Booking was probably my favourite job to do, as it gave me the opportunity to learn more about and engage with distributors, suppliers and the financial department, allowing me to handle and resolve issues through nothing but effective communication skills.

Despite the considerable amount of time and work it takes the book the films, Andrew and I managed to get quite a lot done, having updated the cinema programme until the end of April. Some of the films we booked were Parasite (2019), Oklahoma! (1955), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), The Lighthouse (2019), Harriet (2019), Mr. Jones (2019), A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019), Sonic the Hedgehog (2019), The Call of the Wild (2020) and Onward (2020). The most challenging part of booking for me was updating the website. I have to admit I was quite uncomfortable with the idea of doing that at first as I’m not the most tech-savvy person – ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you how many times a day I struggle with my phone. And even though it took me a while to get the hang of managing the website, I’m still glad I did. It taught me to be more patient and attentive since it’s all about double-checking your work – one small mistake can undo a lot of progress. I learnt that the hard way and I can assure you I’ll always triple-check everything from now.

The biggest project I was involved in during my time at Riverfront was the Wales One World (WOW) Film Festival. The festival started in 2001 and has been taking place every year since, having as its main aim celebrating the riches of world cinema by bringing a selection of films from all over the world to cinemas across Wales. As WOW’s programme includes several different films that are screened in several different venues on different dates, we were very fortunate to have been able to host it from March 7th to 11th at Riverfront before the festival was eventually suspended due to the coronavirus. The festival was launched on Saturday with Made in Bangladesh (2019), a story of female empowerment in a textile factory in Dhaka. The screening was part of Riverfront’s celebration of International Women’s Day, alongside with several other events such as workshops, performances a

nd activities that marked the occasion. And although I couldn’t personally be there, I was told that the screening, as well as the entire event, was a success.

The festival continued with screenings of five other films – Arab Blues (2019) from France, Talking About Trees (2019) from Sudan, Running to the Sky (2019) from Kyrgyzstan, Sister (2019) from Bulgaria and Le Grand Voyage (2004) from Morocco. I could only attend and usher the screening of Le Grand Voyage which, unknown to me at the time, would mark my last day at Riverfront, so it’s a day – and film – I remember fondly. Thanks to my involvement with USW’s Film Reviewers Society, I also got a couple of members to come watch some of the films. I saw it as a great opportunity not only to get the society to work together but to also spark debate about the festival and the kind of films it aims to show. The plan was to write about them at our next meeting, which would spread the word about the festival and get our group up and running but those plans never materialised. It was still interesting to hear what my peers thought of the films and of Riverfront as a whole, especially since we’re the kind of audience their programme aims to attract.

We’ve had our hands full preparing for WOW the weeks before it took place. My main contribution for it was finding articles and reviews on the films to be put in the website and brochures, as well as briefly brainstorming marketing strategies with Andrew, most of which consisted of increasing Riverfront’s social media engagement and the use of digital channels and platforms to reach out to local audience groups. As much as I enjoyed the challenge of organising an event of that scale, I was also looking forward to work on Riverfront’s daily programme and agenda. As Andrew was extra busy during that period, he asked me to do some paperwork and categorise the films screened over the past two years in genres based on attendance. That gives us a better understanding of what the audience wants to see and the kind of films we need to prioritise when booking. It didn’t come as a surprise that the most popular genres were drama and biopic, but it was interesting to see how musicals and documentaries were also extremely popular with Riverfront’s audience. He also gave me the chance to take the lead on looking into and choosing future releases to be screened in the next few months. It was exciting to research and find films that would be suitable to the kind of programme Riverfront has, as well as films that appeal to my personal taste. So if you’re wondering why we’re screening Oklahoma! in 2020, you can blame that on me.

 

Having been mainly working with and for Andrew, it was interesting to get involved in different projects with the rest of the team in my last few weeks at Riverfront. I worked a lot with Sally, the community arts development officer, who was also deeply involved in organising the WOW Festival. We discussed a lot about Riverfront’s website and social media platforms, and about finding a way to get audiences to share and post their opinions and reviews on the films. With that in mind, we’ve made plans to set up a Cinema Critics Club for support groups of recovering patients. The initiative was going to be a partnership with local support groups but unfortunately my placement was terminated before we had a chance to go ahead with that.

Nonetheless, the research I did into other local cinema clubs with a similar initiative was incredibly eye-opening. Even though I’ve been a film lover my entire life, I’ve never really considered the therapeutic – and even healing – aspect of films.

The most interesting project I’ve looked into is the concept of Cinema Therapy, which relies on using the cinematic aspects of film as a way to reflect on our own lives and experiences. Following the basis of many support groups in which sharing and discussion are the key aspects of its effectiveness, Cinema Therapy uses a set of questions to make its members reflect on how the film affects them personally and, therefore, encouraging emotional release and, hopefully, growth.

My last task at my placement involved working with Danielle, who’s the education and participation officer. She had plans to set up an educational initiative using film as a tool to bring communities together. However, much like the Cinema Critics Club project, we didn’t go ahead with it due to the coronavirus situation and the consequent termination of my placement. I still managed to do some research into local initiatives using film as an educational tool around UK and the results were fascinating. From getting students to produce animation storyboards in literacy lessons or using films to introduce a lesson topic, the advantages of implementing film as an instructional medium are endless. Doing that research helped me realise the cognitive benefits of film editing and how the post-production process explores the rhetorical and logical functioning of the human mind.

Having grown up watching films and having them deeply affect my character and personality throughout my formative years, it was moving to read about children and young people who are being encouraged to grow up with the same passion for cinema thanks to initiatives like the one Danielle wanted to set up.

Looking back on it, doing my placement at Riverfront was a very rewarding experience, and even though I’m upset that it had to be cut short due to unavoidable circumstances, I like to think that I’ve made the most of my time there and learnt a lot about the exhibition sector. It was even more rewarding having earned such level of trust and responsibility after a considerably short period of time with the staff. I could feel myself growing by really throwing myself into every task I could get my hands on. I felt genuinely valued as part of the team, and not just someone given a few trivial tasks to keep them busy. The entire team was incredibly welcoming and nice, giving me the freedom to express my ideas and suggestions without putting too much pressure on me. As for the social side of it, they never failed to indulge me in small talk, sweet treats and tea breaks, even after I confessed being a coffee person because, in the words of Frank Sinatra, “way down among Brazilians coffee beans grow by the billions”. The big tea versus coffee debate aside, I miss the staff dearly, especially since I didn’t get a chance to properly say goodbye and express my gratitude to them.

When my placement was eventually terminated, I emailed the team to thank them for everything they have done for me and I was overwhelmed with their response. Amid several of the sweetest ‘good luck’ and ‘wish you all the best’ emails, I was asked if I could write weekly reviews for Riverfront’s website and Facebook page. As it’s right up my alley, I couldn’t turn that opportunity down – as a self-proclaimed writer, it’s always a pleasure to have my work read by as a varied audience as possible. We’re still in the process of organising that as well as setting up a column for audiences to share their own reviews. Besides informally continuing our working relationship, we’ve also been frequently exchanging film recommendations, which led us to discover a shared love for Charade (1963) – we all agreed that no one can make lockdown more entertaining than Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

All in all, I’m thankful for the placement I’ve been given, for the lessons it has taught me and, most importantly, for the people I’ve met through it – they’re as good human beings as they’re good professionals, and I wish them nothing but all the best. Finishing this journey with a better understanding of the various aspects of cinema exhibition and being able to move from one section of the business to the other, I’m happy to report that my enthusiasm and love for film has only increased upon learning the secrets of this part of the industry.

My biggest takeaway from my time at Riverfront has been the realisation of how important cinema exhibition actually is. In the age of streaming services where it’s easy to just watch the latest release on your phone, working at a venue where every team member puts so much effort into creating a social experience out of a film has sparked in me a desire to promote the power and value of the cinema-going experience.

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