Independent Cinema Office Blog

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‘Diversity’: A matter of Staying Power

Posted Monday 31 August 2015 by Duncan Carson in General, Pop-up and Event Cinema, Training & Conferences

Staying Power 1

Colin Jones' 'The Black House' photograph became the defining image for Black Cultural Archives second film festival

Ahead of our 'D Word' Screening Days, we wanted to highlight different approaches to diversity. At the heart of the day is considering different approaches and creating a strategy that works for where you are. Having spoken to a variety of voices (including an established venue and people from across the industry), we wanted to highlight the work of Jan Asante, who played a key role in organising our inspiration for the event nitroBEAT's D Word Conference

Does ‘diversity’ in moving image programming and production matter? The recent spike in media debate themed around ‘diversity’ (or lack thereof) across various strands of the British arts scene would imply that an awareness of the importance of programming content that speaks toward the increasingly broad aesthetic interests of diverse audiences does indeed matter, particularly if cultural programming aims to reflect the ever-morphing zeitgeist.

Spring and summer of 2015 gave rise to a timely convergence of conversations invested in how best to generate and moreover, sustain diverse programming within the UK arts sector. Notable among them were NitroBEAT’s theatre-focused ‘The D Word’ symposium; the Royal Television Society’s ‘Diversity: Job Done?’ debate, and ‘Bechdel Test Fest’; placing under-representation of women on screen at its core. With the politics of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability and religious orientation providing the intersectional framework for many of these conversations, the manifestation of ‘Staying Power: Black Britain On Screen’ Film Festival in early June presented a unique, interconnected opportunity to put an expansive, exploratory spotlight on the cinema of diverse Black cultural identities in the British frame.  

Staying Power 5
Differentiated themes made the wide-ranging programme digestible

Conceptualising Staying Power

In my role as external curator for the second consecutive year of Black Cultural Archives’ Film Festival partnership with Ritzy Picturehouse Cinema and Culture Kinetica; the sophomore run of the festival was fortuitously timed to compliment Black Cultural Archives’ critically acclaimed photographic exhibition ‘Staying Power’, which launched in early 2015. A partnership between Black Cultural Archives and Victoria and Albert Museum spanning both sites; the bold, beautiful and provocative imagery of ‘Staying Power’ reflected a plethora of stories of Black British cultural experience and evolution, from post World War II through to the 1990s. Its documentary photography, portraiture and staged allegorical images captured a visual journey of nearly half a century; celebrating and challenging understandings of Black British identities with connections to a broader African-descent Diaspora beyond the shores of Great Britain.

From the eclectic trajectory of Staying Power’s photographs came the defining premise for a similarly-inspired film festival that would pay homage to ‘Black Britain On Screen’, in six definitive chapters: A Question of Belonging;  LOVE?; Black Genius; Revolt & Revolution; Soul Cinema: Mirroring The Black Atlantic; and Black In The Digital Age.

The festival tagline: ‘A salute to the pioneering voices of Black British cinema; those independent storytellers, community griots, radical documentarians and counter-culture moving image activists who animate the unseen and amplify the seldom explored narratives.’

Staying Power 2

Many of the screenings in BCA's Film Festival were of films that had been seldom screened before; while this creates issues, it also draws attention to the archival material and what they have to say about the current situation

Staying Power: Process, Programme & Partnerships

Working collaboratively with the internal programming and marketing departments at Black Cultural Archives and Picturehouse Acquisitions, the collective objective in bringing the ‘Staying Power’ photographic experience to the big screen was to re-envision how the exhibition’s most powerful images could speak through the iconic cinema of their time, as an exploration of Black culture’s evolving space in Britain’s landscape and beyond from the 1950s through to 2015.  Also among the principle considerations in building the concepts and partnerships for ‘Black Britain On Screen’ was the significance of the archive as a keeper of the record of Black history. The launch of Black Cultural Archives Film Festival the previous year had paid homage to the work and legacy of cultural theorist Stuart Hall. Specifically, his ideas around cultural identity, race and ethnicity as an ‘Unfinished Conversation’ – most poignantly expressed in filmmaker John Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project, which opened #BCAFilmFest 2014 season at Ritzy Cinema.

The work of 2014 festival collaborator, film archivist June Givanni [founder of June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive, ‘Black Film Bulletin’ magazine at the BFI and former head of the British Film Institute’s now defunct African Caribbean Unit] was yet another point of inspiration in conceiving the screening selections and recorded BCA-based Salons that would provide an interactive discussion space for audience engagement with the key themes of 2015’s festival. ‘Black Britain On Screen’ would bring on board partners for these BCA Salons: Black UK arts and entertainment IMDb-styled database The British Blacklist, together with digital media design and culture blog The:NuBlk. The Salons themselves, each running at two hours and themed around the six aforementioned chapters of the festival, aimed to provide a more in-depth platform than the singular post-screening Q&A format had offered in 2014. BCA Salons (inspired by the Sundance channel 'Iconoclast' series) would foster trans-generational dialogues and bring together an eclectic array of high-profile cultural commentators to lend context to 'Black Britain On Screen' content, whilst cross-fertilising its historically pointed moments with contemporary sociopolitical themes.

BCA Salon speakers and hosts included Mykaell S. Riley (Head of Music Production at University of Westminster/ founder of the Black Music Research Unit), Akala (musician, activist and founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company), Professor Paul Goodwin (urban theorist and Chair of Black Art and Design at University of the Arts London), Dionne Walker (curator and filmmaker), Zoe Whitley (art historian and curator at Tate Modern/ Tate Britain), Nadia Denton (film writer, producer and former director of Black Filmmaker Magazine International Film Festival at BFI), Shola Amoo (filmmaker), Gabrielle Smith (founder of The Nu:Blk) and Akua Gyamfi (founder of The British Blacklist).

Ritzy Brixton
The Ritzy in Brixton proves a worthwhile partnership: it is in close proximity to the archive as well as being embedded in a multiethnic community that has played a major role in Black British history

Further festival collaborators included Film4 Online (co-presenter of Second Coming Q&A with Nadine Marshall), The New Black Film Collective (co-presenter of Dear White People), filmmaker and Q&A guest Andy Mundy-Castle (The Fade), DJ Cyndi (co-founder of Reclaim: Brixton) and Mercury-award nominated artist TY.

In all, 16 films were selected for the Staying Power screening programme at Ritzy Picturehouse. Among the films and documentaries featured (spanning 1959 to 2015) were early seminal works (and predominantly archival films) by directors who had emerged from the pioneering Black film collective workshops founded in early 1980s Britain: John Akomfrah (Handsworth Songs/Last Angel Of History), Isaac Julien (Territories), Reece Auguiste (Twilight City) and Menelik Shabazz (Burning An Illusion/ Blood Ah Go Run/ Looking For Love) among them. The seldom seen perspectives of Britain’s Black female filmmakers were explored in selections by director Ngozi Onwurah (Shoot The Messenger) and playwright-turned-director, debbie tucker green (Second Coming).

Migration and the reconciliation of 'othering' were recurring motifs encompassed within Staying Power’s screen timeline. Explored through varied narratives were themes ranging from political resistance movements (Mario Van Peebles' Panther) to gentrification (Barry Jenkins' Medicine For Melancholy) through to interracial and LGBTQ identities (Justin Simien'sDear White People), themes that traversed continents, reflecting the complex interconnections of a 'Black Atlantic'.

A further 9 short films screened as part of BCA’S 'Black In The Digital Age' presentation, showcasing new work by emerging artists, animators and web series creators (Cecile Emeke's 'Strolling' series and SorryYouFeelUncomfortable collective among the selections), all shown in collaboration with Ritzy Cinema, Electric Pedals and Lambeth Sustainable Travel.

Staying Power 4
Black in the Digital Age and Soul Cinema strands brought the cultural conversation up to date

Marketing. Audience. Outcome. Continuum.

The defining image selected to advertise Staying Power: Black Britain On Screen was that of photographer Colin Jones. Titled 'The Black House’, taken circa 1973/76, and used with permission of specialist Black image photo archive Autograph ABP, the image was chosen specifically for its striking evocation of a time in England's recent history  when racially motivated assaults on Black communities were commonplace; assaults from English nationalist groups targeting new migrants were on the rise, and SUS laws of the era were about to entwine with racially-fuelled uprisings that would spill across the country's urban centre's in the early 1980s.

Ritzy Cinema lent support to BCA marketing of the festival and given the time and budget constraints in producing the festival within such a capped period, the bulk of promotion was done online; principally co-ordinated by programme partner Culture Kinetica, utilising BCA's Facebook and Twitter platforms to create ads targeting both Ritzy Picturehouse patrons and Black Cultural Archives' festival partner networks. Audience feedback forms were generated for all events to survey attendee interest, demographics and as a means of informing future film programming content.

In all, Staying Power:Black Britain On Screen was exceptionally well-attended, with BCA Salons selling out in advance and with several of the feature films shown at Ritzy being upgraded to larger screens, given the scale of demand. Though there were challenges; principally in acquiring some of the more obscure film titles within such a limited time frame, the overall outcome and audience insights were favourable, with many of the attendees who had travelled from outside London calling for the festival to consider touring other parts of the country in future. With future planning in mind, a platform like Black Cultural Archives Film Festival would definitely have scope for growth and even international expansion, but would definitely require the support of sponsors and collaborative media partners to realise its full potential as both an archival resource and advocacy platform, highlighting the significance of Black artistic contributions to British film culture.

Why diversity matters in programming

Posted Wednesday 26 August 2015 by Duncan Carson in General, Training & Conferences

mac Birmingham Diversity partners
Partnerships are at the heart of maintaining high-quality diverse content on screen at mac birmingham, working with (clockwise from top left) London Indian Film Festival (Kush), Afrovibes, Play Poland (In a Bedroom) and Birmingham LGBT Trust (Cloudburst)

Ahead of our 'D Word' Screening Days, we wanted to highlight different approaches to diversity. At the heart of the day is considering different approaches and creating a strategy that works for where you are. Below you'll hear from an established venue with a mature diversity plan, someone who is just starting to consider their diversity offering and an independent curator to give perspective on what diversity means, how they approach it and why it matters to them.

Amy Smart: 'Almost everyone has a relationship with film'

Amy Smart is Cinema Producer at mac birmingham. Here she speaks about how diversity can work in an established venue, and how important it is to reflect the make up of their community.

As an independent mixed arts venue in the heart of the city diversity is at the core of what we do at mac.  With a population of over one million, Birmingham is home to over 187 different nationalities (the smallest of which is one Nicaraguan family).

mac itself is located on the boundary of four very different areas: Selly Oak’s international student base, the affluent Harborne/Edgbaston, bohemian Kings Heath/Moseley and Balsall Heath/Sparkbrook which is home to a large South Asian population. Open and accessible, located in one of the city’s most popular parks, mac is used by all these communities and more.

Diversity is embedded within our artistic programme and it’s important to reflect our communities in the work we do, including on screen.

With largely lower ticket prices than other art forms and a much larger source of reviews and endorsements via popular culture, film is perhaps the most accessible art form; almost everyone has a relationship with film. 

Film has the potential to be the most representative and diverse art form of our time; it not only reflects changing attitudes, people and places but also has the ability to transport us back in time, forward into the future or to foreign lands providing understanding of other cultures as well teaching us things we might otherwise never learn.

mac, Birmingham
Diversity is at the heart of mac's work in Birmingham; without it, it would be missing large parts of their community

Programming diverse work is as much about equity and leadership, reflecting the diversity in the people programming as well as the content, which is why mac is committed to collaboration and multiple voices. Partnerships ensure diversity in our programme and our audiences. mac’s most recent partnership with the London Indian Film Festival brought a selection of Hindi, Marathi and Bengali titles to the city and with over 300 admissions, new audiences with them. 

Celebrating Black History Month last year mac partnered with UK Arts International to host Afrovibes, a touring festival of contemporary South African Performing Arts. Working with BFI FAN, Afrika Eye and Africa in Motion, we presented a short film season to sit alongside the festival, this created an opportunity to ‘piggy back’ onto other events, increasing the reach and in turn audiences.

Working in partnership with Birmingham LGBT Trust the festival was particularly popular with female audiences and we saw sold out screenings of Sing-along Calamity Jane, Tomboy, Cloudburst, I Am Divine and Pride.

Play Poland has significantly helped develop our Eastern European audiences and working closely with Birmingham based Polish ExPats Association we have seen repeat engagements from Birmingham’s local Polish community and audiences increasing year on year, stand out titles include Papusza, Ida and In A Bedroom. mac also regularly takes part in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme and more. 

Our mission - to make art an important part of people’s lives - is predicated on diversity in our audiences, our artists and the work that we programme.

White Shadow
Despite having the help of Ryan Gosling as Executive Producer, White Shadow deals with an unfamiliar subject in an uncompromising way, so careful curation is needed

Neil Hepburn: 'Anything with unfamiliar terrain requires a leap of faith'

Neil Hepburn is Marketing Manager at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh. Here he talks about a speculative film screening he helped develop, aimed at making diverse programming approachable to a broad spectrum of audiences.

'Season of the Witch’ is the title of a film programme I created with Tanya Barras-Hill, Siobhan O’Leary (Strategic Development Co-ordinator at the BFI) and Rosie Taylor (Festival Curator at Afrika Eye), my fellow participants on the ICO’s Cultural Cinema Exhibition course in April. No prizes for guessing what the season is about, but our idea was guided by one of the key themes on the course: diversity.

The season is formed around 2014’s challenging Tanzanian drama White Shadow, which deals with modern day witchcraft (specifically the killing of Albinos for the black market trade of their organs). The environment, characters and subject matter of White Shadow have rarely been explored in cinema, which creates a challenge in terms of audience engagement. Anything with such unfamiliar terrain requires a leap of faith on the part of most viewers.

The season is designed to help audiences make that jump into the unknown. We wanted to position the film within a broad spectrum of reference points that would hopefully offer a variety of access routes into the world of White Shadow. More than that, we wanted the programme to capture people’s imaginations and get them talking.

Season of the Witch
Season of the Witch seeks to attract attention to an unconvential film by pairing it with more familiar genres and choices that have broad appeal or work as co-programming on the theme of witches including (clockwise from top left) Suspiria, Kiki's Delivery Service, Maid of Salem and War Witch

So we mixed cult and mainstream favourites with more demanding arthouse dramas and included a few wild cards, like the strange, part-fictionalised Swedish/Danish silent documentary Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages. We based the criteria for all the films we included on how well they interrogated the idea of witchcraft throughout history and cultures.

The programme was also designed to be accessible to a diverse audience across a wide range of ages. For example, for younger viewers we included Kiki’s Delivery Service, which director Hayao Miyazaki says is about Japanese women’s experience of independence. There’s also The Craft, which, in its representation of empowered teenage girls, goes against the grain of much of its contemporary '90s teen movie fodder. We aimed to lure genre fans with tent-pole horror classics like Suspiria and Rosemary’s Baby, but hoped that would lead them towards exploring something different, like War Witch, a Congolese drama dealing with difficult subject matter.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list of films relating to the subject of Witchcraft. But we think it does offer a sideways look at the subject. We would hope that the programme would serve as a more accessible route into the less familiar terrain of African cinema.

The season in full

Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922); Maid of Salem (1937); The Blair Witch Project (1999); War Witch (2012); The Crucible (1996); Rosemary’s Baby (1968); Witchhammer (1970); The Craft (1996); Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989); White Shadow (2015); Witchfinder General (1968); Black Sunday (1960); Suspiria (1977).

Spook who Sat by the Door

The Spook who Sat by the Door inspired frank discussion and drew together an audience that were otherwise invisible to an established venue

Lynn Nwokorie: 'All were there to have an experience - the experience of seeing themselves on screen'

Lynn Nwokorie has been part of the African Odysseys steering committee at the BFI, which led her to freelance curating work with projects including Film Africa. Having recently joined the ICO as programmer, Lynn reflects on a single screening that made a big difference to her and showed her why sensitive programming matters.

I was introduced to the power of diversity programming when I began working at the BFI. A well-intentioned but wildly uncomfortable conversation led me to a diversity-orientated film strand held at the BFI called African Odysseys. The strand was recommended to purely by the fact that I was black. I’ll be honest, I was affronted by the idea that the colour of my skin somehow took precedence in determining what must be my film taste and knowledge, over the demonstrable film knowledge that got me the job in the first place. Regardless, I was intrigued and my viewing at African Odysseys of The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973) was a revelation. Before the film had even started, the audience’s energy was something else. It was as if I were at the opening night of a much anticipated blockbuster such was the palpable expectancy that filled NFT1. How could a 40-something year-old film create so much excitement?

The make-up of the audience was the first clue to this. The age-old adage that continues to keep diverse programming out of the mainstream, of there not being any ethnic minority audiences to cater to, was completely demolished at this screening. London’s black population came out in force - young and old - alongside sizeable representations of other ethnic groups, with a combination of traditional arthouse types alongside multiplex enthusiasts. All were there to have an experience - the experience of seeing themselves on screen. I don’t mean this in an actual sense, as I am well aware that I and my fellow audience members are not CIA-trained spies. At least I don’t think so. It was the thrust of the story that held resonance with the audience; something that I observed closely. A satire about the civil rights movement in 1960s USA and one of the first films to seriously consider black militancy, this entertaining Blaxploitation-influenced drama had a great impact on me and, more importantly, sparked an interest in programming.

Njinga
Njinga, Queen of Angola proved that audiences, when carefully targeted, would turn out in numbers for diverse content that highlighted black talent on screen

There followed an equally interesting documentary about the making of the film, which in itself would make a spectacular story, but it was the Q&A that was the true highlight. Despite sitting in a theatre for over three hours at this point, the audience seemed ready to stay for more. Willing and able to have a brilliantly heated and honest discussion about what the film meant to them, I heard all the various reasons why people had come. For the cineastes, it was all about the opportunity to see a banned underground classic in all its glory. For others they had been dragged by older relatives to see the adaptation of the book they had coveted since they were their grandson’s age. For people like me it was simple intrigue, to watch a familiar story from a different perspective. What everyone took away from this afternoon of filmic delight was the hunger for this kind of programming was very evident, from all groups and ethnicities.

It came to me on that afternoon – diversity programming is the greatest way for film to flourish. Whether from a financial perspective or for the love of the art, audience is key. It is my fundamental belief that it benefits everyone when film is screened from a stance of inclusion. Everyone should have access to film and should have the opportunity to relate on a personal level to what they’re watching. The diversity we get from literature should be the same for film.

There is still the battle for diversity in programming as people still hang on to the idea that it’s fine to solely show what you know for people you know because you can’t/won’t understand any other way. This in itself creates a cyclical problem. Working on the basis of exclusion limits the capabilities of a film potential, doing a disservice to the filmmakers and audiences alike. The recent popularity of films like Dear White People and repeated sold out screenings of Njinga, Queen of Angola (which will play the Phoenix in East Finchley shortly), not only proves that there exists an audience but that diversifying your programme, unifies your audience. We’re all here to be entertained; to experience something more, such as a new perspective, a different way of thinking, or just to spark discussion is all just a fantastic bonus.

News round-up... 20/08/2015

Posted Wednesday 19 August 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in News Round-up

He Named Me Malala
He Named Me Malala, profiling equality activist Malala Yousafzai, will screen at The 'D' Word Screening Days

ICO News

  • Read about our The 'D' Word Screening Days event, coming up on Tuesday 15 September at London's Rich Mix. We're really excited about delivering a fantastic line-up of films showcasing BAME talent, as well as sessions and panels embracing complexity, diversifying your programme and broadening your audience. We've just confirmed a big batch of new speakers including writer, coach and presenter Gaylene Gould; Jamaican-British filmmaker Cecile Emeke (director of the amazing Strolling and hilarious Ackee & Saltfish web series) and Jana Sante the curator of the Black Cultural Archives Film Festival and advisor for NitroBEAT's D Word symposium that inspired our own exploration of what 'diversity' means for cinema audiences. You'll hear from voices who have successfully embraced diversity (in a variety of different ways), learn about effective case studies and see some pioneering and brilliant films. The deadline to register is 15th September, so do it now!
  • Our Two Films by Josephine Decker screenings is coming to an end with a double-bill of Decker's Butter on the Latch and Noah Baumbach's Mistress America at the ICA this evening, following our Dreaming of Decker symposium on Saturday and two weeks of screenings and Q&As at venues nationwide. We're thrilled with the responses to Decker's sensual, experimental films, and thoroughly proud of our ongoing audience development project and the conversations it has sparked. Thanks to Josephine, the cinemas and everyone who came to watch! Read her very sweet mid-tour round up here.
  • Next Friday we're releasing our beautiful restoration of Antonioni's stunning L'Eclisse; and we've also been putting the finishing touches to our Astley Baker Davies retrospective featuring the early work of the BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated animators behind Peppa Pig. There's two programmes of their witty, charming work: The Big Knights, for small children and The World of Astley Baker Davies, for older audiences. Read more on these superb animations and the funding and resources we've got to support your screenings.
  • The deadline for applications to our Practical Programming course is this Monday 24th! If you've got a programming idea that you'd like to bring to your venue this is a great opportunity to get intensive, insightful training and support to give you (and your audiences) a meaningful boost. Find out more.  

Opportunities and calls for submissions

  • In need of new kit? Birmingham's "Giant Screen" cinema at Millennium Point is in the process of being decommissioned, and as a result there's some high quality digital equipment (including a Barco 4K DCP projector, amps, 3D glasses and servicing equipment) up for sale. Interested? Contact Simon Nicholls Cinema Support Services on 07966 482729 to enquire.  
  • Animate Projects, genius supporters of animators and their work, have teamed up with Quad Derby for the second Animate Open, an international competition for animation work on the theme of 'Parts and Labour'. There are big prizes but the deadline is coming round quickly on 3rd September! More details here.
  • If you screen event cinema, HDDC's new training course - supported by Creative Skillset and endorsed by the Event Cinema Association - may be of interest. It covers all commercial and technical aspects, and is aimed at improving the quality, viability and reliability of event cinema. 
  • Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival needs youthful submissions for its Young Filmmakers Competition. There are separate awards for 15-19 year olds and those aged up to 14. Prizes include £250 cash towards your next filmmaking project.
  • Young film lovers based in Ireland - Cinemagic Belfast 2015 needs 6-11 year olds to make up its CineSeekers jury panel and watch and judge a range of international films. 
  • Film artists, read about The Experimenta Pitch: a new initiative to support visual artists develop ambitious moving image projects, presented as part of BFI London Film Festival...
  • Aaaand submit to Salon Flux, which needs moving image work for its Bunker Cinema this autumn, by Tuesday 25th.
  • Female filmmakers: Yale Film Colloquium is looking for short film submissions - fiction, docs, experimental, animation or music video - about any kind of 'bad' girl. Including girls who are ninjas.
  • It's less than two weeks to the start of Scalarama 2015! But there's still time to get involved - submit your screening event here.
  • Read more

  • "I don't feel like I should have to beg to be let in where others get a free pass." Two inspiring pieces with acclaimed filmmaker - and 'D' Word Screening Days speaker - Cecile Emeke. Firstly this interview in the New York Times, and secondly How to Decolonise Filmmaking in Dazed.
  • Want to increase audience admissions for specialised films by 35%? Find out how cinemas in the South West & West Midlands Film Hub region did it with their Cinema Incentive Scheme.
  • About this Sunderland cinema, destined for rebuilding in a 1950s town (complete with 1930s projector).
  • How film festivals saved Eastern European Cinema. (h/t Åsa Garnert).
  • "I came away feeling that other festival programmers were not competitors, but colleagues": top takeaways from attendees at our 2015 Developing Your Film Festival course in Motovun in Screen Daily's round-up.
  • Good to see Bechdel Test Fest on London Live, supporting their screening of radical animation Rocks in My Pockets at ICA this Sunday.
  • Have you look at our jobs page lately? It's stuffed.

Building a diverse audience: Sophia's blog

Posted Tuesday 11 August 2015 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme, General, Pop-up and Event Cinema, Training & Conferences

Broadway Reggae Symposium flyer
Thinking carefully about the flyer is one of the overlooked but all important moments when trying to engage people outside your usual audience

This year we're running our Film FEDS scheme, aimed at giving young trainees an opportunity to learn on the job in film distribution, exhibition and international sales. Ahead of our 'D Word' Screening Days, we wanted to highlight a case study of engaging with diversity in a thoughtful and successful way. Here, one of our trainees, Sophia Ramcharan, working at Broadway in Nottingham (one of the ICO's programming partners), gives her impressions of the experience.

As a film programmer I know that building an audience can be tricky, especially if you are attempting to attract new and/or diverse audiences to attend your film event in a location that is unfamiliar to them. As part of my placement at the Broadway Cinema I was asked to programme an event. My brief was simple: to develop an event that would appeal to a diverse audience,  building on our previous programming which included The Hip Hop Film Festival and black history season. 

From my experience of organising film nights in the Nottingham community, with a particular focus on ‘black cinema’, I’ve identified two broadly distinct markets and platforms. The first is to provide a platform for specialised films to be showcased to a wider ‘universal’ audience. The second is to screen films that would appeal to a diverse audience, in this case the African Caribbean community, with the aim to attracting them to the venue.

The best case scenario is to create a balance between the two. My intention for the brief was to create an inclusive environment that would appeal to the community as a whole that would not alienate or overly target one particular group.   My approach was to present Broadway Cinema as an ‘event destination’ that would make the day as attractive as possible so that the target audience would come enjoy the films and stay to enjoy the day with food, drink and entertainment available in the café. In summary: to create a positive, shared experience and to demystify any negative misconceptions they may have about Broadway Cinema.

So, in June, I delivered an event at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham entitled ‘The Reggae Symposium of Film and Music’. For me, reggae seemed to be an obvious theme for the event that would meet the aims of the brief; it is, after all, a global phenomenon.

Nottingham has a strong tradition of a sound system culture from ‘back in the day’, but also historically a relatively large Caribbean community.  My idea was create an integrated approach to a day of celebrating the reggae culture; screening of two classic reggae films, Rockers (1978) and Babylon (1980), and a symposium discussion to explore the themes of the day with a celebrated guest panel. 

So how did this event become a reality?  

Rockers
Rockers
(1978), one of the reggae classics screened during the symposium, but more recent titles proved elusive

Titles

One of the biggest obstacles was obtaining the relevant permission to screen the films. Films that were on our wish list were not available to screen or I could not find information about the distributor. Not only was this very frustrating, this was fundamental factor in shaping the films programme which is why we settled on the two classic titles that were on the programme. I should note here that this part of the planning process can often be the most time consuming.

Marketing

Print
Deciding your marketing strategy is very important to the success of the event. Broadway is one of the few cinemas to still have a printed monthly programme and placement of the event in the brochure was very important for many reasons. Mainly, in my opinion, because it provides a clear message that the event is fully integrated into general programme and not bolted on as an after thought.

Flyer and Poster
The importance of a flyer cannot be overstated. A strong design with the key information is crucial to the distribution of the promotional material in the key places in community venues, such as community centres, hairdressers, restaurants etc.  For events that are encouraging an inter-generational audience, flyers are important because of the low levels of digital literacy in the elders in the community. This also helps to create strong recommendations of the event by ‘word of mouth’.

Online
From my experience, the target audience in the community are not really engaging with social media as the ‘typical’ Broadway audience would. It is rare that elders in the community would use Twitter and Facebook.  So whilst it is important to promote the events online as normal, it is also very important to push the traditional marketing methods as described above.

Broadway Nottingham external
Broadway in Nottingham: continuing to engage with a more diverse audience

Partnerships & Sponsorship

I engaged with two ‘community connectors’ to help to deliver the project.  A locally-based DJ collective and Nubian Link, an educational group dedicated to promoting the educational, cultural and economic needs of the Afrikan community from an Afrikan-centred perspective.  Both organisations were important in broadening out the marketing reach of the event into the community with a dedicated street team who were out distributing flyers and posters.  They were also very important in helping to shape the activities of the day and delivering the programme.

To enhance the programme, a sponsorship deal was negotiated with Wray and Nephew, the Jamaican white rum specialists. They provided some free product and recipes for us to create the rum cocktail. Monetary sponsorship was secured from the Nottingham Carnival and Tuntum Housing Association in Nottingham which went towards the guest expenses and the evening entertainment.  

Reggae Symposium gig
Planning an event in a modular way, with a variety of activities, can make it more accessible to those who would avoid a traditional film screening; Photo credit Michael Saunders

Activities

A BBQ was planned that included authentic Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken wings. We provided music on the outside terrace – authentic dub reggae and live music in the café to round off the event.  All of the activities were scheduled between the films programme.  The symposium panel discussion had the cream of British reggae talent, including Janet Kay ('Silly Games'), Mykaell Riley (Steel Pulse), John Masouri (Echoes music magazine) and Brinsley Forde (founder of Aswad and star of Babylon). 

We developed a special promotion, if people brought an all-day ticket, they were treated to a free reggae rum punch.  
From my experience, as programmers we often make the mistake of not programming enough time for an in-depth debate and integration with the audience, which can impact on the cinema schedule if the discussion overruns. That is why we scheduled the panel discussion as a separate event, the length of a feature film, rather than an after film Q&A.  

To conclude, programming with the intention to engage new audience requires creativity and resourcefulness to create an event that will attract the audience that you want. 

The approach with the Reggae Symposium of Film and Music was to encourage the community to experience Broadway,  enjoy the day; take one of the printed programmes and decide what the next film they see at Broadway will be and with whom. The price of a cinema ticket these days can be expensive for many people, so my philosophy is to always try and add value to the film screening for maximum effect. This can be achieved in scaled-down methods rather than as described in this article, but hopefully I’ve provided some inspiration.

I do believe that we’d achieved a balance in the audience in terms of ethnicity and age. I have worked with Broadway on a number of film events. However, this event in particular also helped to showcase the range of services that Broadway had to offer; an impressive programme of films, great hospitality, friendly staff and a space to socialise and meet new people. Whilst the goal was to engage new audiences in the films programme, many came to the cinema simply to enjoy the music, the relaxed vibe and the authenticity of the event. From that standpoint, the general feedback was also that they were pleasantly surprised that Broadway planned events like this and they would definitely consider coming back again to check out future films programmes.

To see a selection of images from the event, click here.

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