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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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?
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 investment, independent filmproduction, TV productionandbroadcasting, distribution and exhibition and video games) where immediate priority has been given to the following three cross-cutting issues – health and safety codes of practice; insurance; 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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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 Workstationsaid:
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
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.
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.
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.
National Lottery funding through the BFI Film Audience Network available to members of the UK-wide network in critical need due to the COVID-19 crisis.
London, Wednesday 15 April 2020: The BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) today opens the BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund, making £1.3m of National Lottery funding available to the exhibition sector across the UK, which is in critical financial need as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. BFI FAN – a unique collaboration of eight Film Hubs managed by leading film organisations across the UK – is offering emergency relief for small and medium sized audience facing organisations with a particular focus on venue based exhibitors. The Fund is being administered through each of Film Hubs, working with the BFI, and the deadline for applications is Wednesday 6 May 2020.
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences, BFI, said:
Our entire industry is feeling the ramifications of COVID-19, but financially the exhibition sector is one of the most immediately hit. These innovative, creative businesses, often run on limited resources by dedicated and passionate people, exist to bring rich and diverse films to audiences across the UK. We hope this Fund will help them survive and retain their staff, so they can continue their vital work.
Exhibitors and festivals have faced immediate closure and cancellations, presenting them with unprecedented challenges. Many businesses are at risk of permanent closure and making staff redundant. The Fund sees the BFI working with the Film Hubs to repurpose BFI FAN National Lottery activity funding to alleviate some of this pressure.
Accessible to all FAN Members across the UK, eligibility is outlined in the Fund Guidelines, and those interested in applying are encouraged to contact their local Film Hub to discuss their position bfi.org.uk/fanresiliencefund.
The Fund is part of a package of support from the BFI for individuals and businesses that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. This includes a number of new funds, repurposing £4.6m in National Lottery funding to target specific areas of the sector including freelancers and producers, as well as the exhibition sector.
The BFI is also leading an industry-wide Screen Sector Task Force, and working closely with Government to ensure all of the ramifications and wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 on the sector are considered, and can help shape measures to address them. The BFI has up-to-date industry advice for the sector at bfi.org.uk/supporting-uk-film/covid-19-answering-questions-screen-sectors.
Organisers of Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival have today (9 April 2020) confirmed they are making three short films from the Iris archive available for free on their YouTube channel. The films are all directed by women who have made short films with the £30,000 Iris Prize, sponsored by the Michael Bishop Foundation.
The focus on successful Iris Prize female filmmakers is presented in anticipation of the world premiere of Lara Zeidan’s A Beautiful Form to See, starring Alicia Agneson (Vikings). The eleventh Iris Production will screen as part of the 2020 Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival in Cardiff on opening night – Tuesday 6 October. Director Lara Zeidan, from Lebanon, will be in Cardiff to introduce her film which is described as a hypnotising celebration of the female gaze.
The focus goes live today (Thursday 9 April 2020) on the Iris Prize YouTube Channel with Dee Rees’ Colonial Gods. In May we’ll be sharing Daisy & D by Arkasha Stevenson, and in June Susan Jacobson’s Wild Geese will be available.
In September we will also be sharing a short film on the making of A Beautiful Form to See, which includes interviews with both Lara Zeidan and Alicia Agneson, in anticipation of the big screen premiere in Cardiff this October.
Berwyn Rowlands, Festival Director, commented:
One of the primary reasons for Iris to exist is to get more people to see LGBT+ stories. I hope that this focus will combine our enthusiasm for October’s film festival in Cardiff with the reality of today, when people have more time on their hands to access content during this period of physical distancing and lockdown.
The mix of films is truly astounding. We have always been proud of the fact that the Iris Prize is a very rare opportunity for filmmakers to do whatever they would like to do. These are the stories they want to bring to the screen, without any interference from a funder or financier.
As we progress during the focus, leading up to the festival in October, we will also have a chance to discuss and contextualise the work by sharing memories of producing these films in Cardiff and the surrounding area.
Colonial Gods, Director / Writer: Dee Rees
The focus starts, appropriately, at the beginning with Dee Rees. It was no surprise for those who remember her award-winning short, Pariah, which won the first Iris Prize in 2007, that Dee Rees was nominated for an Oscar ten years later. Following a meeting with Team Iris at Sundance 2008, Dee returned to Cardiff in October to sit on the Iris Prize International Jury, a tradition that continues to this day, with the winner of the previous Iris Prize taking a seat at the judging table. During her stay in Cardiff, Dee was able to reach out to members of the multicultural community of Cardiff Bay and her story started taking shape. The first Iris Production, Colonial Gods, premiered at the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival in 2009 and the following year it screened in LA at OUTFEST Fusion and London’s BFI Flare.
Other highlights in the focus include the online premiere in May of Daisy & D, written, directed and edited by Iris Prize winner Arkasha Stevenson. Daisy & D is close to the reality of a night Arkasha witnessed during a photo-journalism assignment. The film explores the complicated love that can exist between two people in the most ugly of circumstances. It’s dark and ugly to watch, if it wasn’t there would be something wrong.
The final online premiere in June will be Wild Geese, directed by Susan Jacobson and written by Katie Campbell and Kayleigh Llewellyn. Full of comedy and human vulnerability, this is a story of recovery and the redemptive nature of love. When Amy catches her husband in the act, she falls down a flight of stairs and wakes up with amnesia – believing she is 16 and that the year is 1999.
The main festival sponsors are: The Michael Bishop Foundation, Welsh Government, the BFI awarding funds from the National Lottery, Film4, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Pinewood Studios Group, Cardiff University, BBC Cymru Wales, For Cardiff, Bad Wolf, Gorilla Group, Co-op Respect, University of South Wales, Ministry of Sound and Cineworld.
The festival also works in partnership with BAFTA Cymru, Pride Cymru and Stonewall Cymru.
For those of you looking to keep in touch with your audiences through streaming at this challenging time, MUBI are offering you the opportunity to share a 90 day free MUBI subscription with your members or newsletter subscribers.
MUBI have always been a champion of cinemas, for example, through their existing MUBI GO offer which extends the cinema-going experience to all of its members. With many cinemas now temporarily closing their doors, they are offering this partnership as a way of cinemas keeping contact with their audiences.
They can build a bespoke offer landing page with your logo and a customised URL that you can share with your members or newsletter subscribers. This could be a way to stay connected with your audiences and potentially invite them to join in watch-alongs of specific titles, promote donations or friends of schemes and keep independent cinema watching alive during this challenging period.
If you think this offer can add value to your membership, contact MUBI to find out the next steps.
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