Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Self-distribution in action: Beyond Clueless

Posted Thursday 12 February 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in Film Releases, General

Beyond Clueless

Released nationwide on the 23rd January, Beyond Clueless has been variously hailed as a "hypnotic, narcotic and dreamlike cine-essay about the contemporary American teen movie phenomenon" (by the Guardian), as "vibrant, funny and subversive" (by Dazed & Confused) and as "a commentary that will fair set your British teeth on edge" (by the Daily Mail). The film has been a labour of love for its director Charlie Lyne (previously better known as creator of Ultra Culture) and all who've worked on it from its Kickstarter inception to its innovative, lo-fi and very personal UK release, the style of which chimes perfectly with the film's theme and teenage aesthetic. Below, Charlie and Dom Rafferty (the designer behind much of the film's print marketing) answer questions about Beyond Clueless and its self-distribution strategy.

Charlie Lyne, director

What were your initial inspirations for making this film?

I've always been obsessed with the teen genre, which as an adolescent was totally natural I guess, but for whatever reason it was never something that I grew out of. When I was fifteen, those movies were a prism through which to view the world. Now that I'm older, they're a prism through which to view my teenage self.

Which films referenced in Beyond Clueless provoke the most nostalgia in you – and why?

The 2004 teen sex comedy EuroTrip is a film that means an immense amount to me. Initially because it caught me at just the right moment when I was a teenager, eager to be swept up in a world of illicit thrills and casual nudity, but it's also a film that's meant something different to me each time I've revisited it. Like most people's favourite teen movies, it's not a major hit or a critical darling, but a film that spoke to me at just the right moment.

Why did you decide to self-distribute?

We'd done distribution deals in various other countries through our sales agent, but when it came to the UK we were wary of being a small film on a big slate, especially having seen how easy it is for those films to get lost in the whirlwind of the average UK release week. We figured we would be able to put in the kind of time that a distributor couldn't afford to spend on such a small, idiosyncratic film, and make sure that every screening felt like a proper event.

Can you describe your marketing plans for the film? What kind of audience and trends were you trying to tap into? What were the surprises?

We knew there was an audience of some kind for the film because it was crowd-funded in the first place. The challenge was working out how best to reach that audience in the real world, which is obviously much more difficult than on a global platform like Kickstarter. We decided to focus on a small number of hand-tailored screenings (most of which I did Q&As at) rather than trying to book in a bunch of shows at each site. That way we could encourage all the potential audience members in a given town to get together on a specific night, which gave each screening the feeling of an event. The main surprise was how enthusiastic people were. It wasn't half as difficult as we'd expected to get people out to the screenings, even on a Wednesday afternoon in Aberdeen.

We worked with Dom to make bespoke posters for each of the venues screening the film, and also with the ICO to decide on accompanying films we might want to show with it (for example, it's screening in a double-bill with The Craft at the Gulbenkian in Canterbury and is heading the Teens Rule OK! season at the QUAD in Derby). Other venues have offered live scores or have put on prom nights to get the audience in the mood.

Beyond Clueless posters

What are the benefits of going to the extra effort of ‘curating’ the run of the documentary in this way?

Selfishly, it makes it much more fun for us, because each of the screenings feels unique and exciting. And I think people can tell that they're getting something distinctive even if they've not been following what we've been doing in each city. It really doesn't involve that much more effort than a traditional screening either - most of the time it was just a case of buying a few red party cups and putting together a Spotify playlist - but it allows the audience to get much more out of the experience.

How did you work to secure screenings around the UK? And what has it been like presenting the film to regional audiences?

We tried to just be as honest as possible with everybody. There was no point us pretending that we had the biggest film of 2015 on our hands, so instead we just explained to exhibitors what the film was, who it would hopefully appeal to, and everything we would be doing to promote it. Four stars from Peter Bradshaw didn't hurt either.

What are your major lessons from self-distribution so far?

I have learned, by heart, the relative merits of the Wi-Fi services offered by every major British rail operator. 

Dom Rafferty, designer

Can you talk us through how you came up with the idea for the Beyond Clueless posters for the QUAD in Derby, Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff and the Gulbenkian Cinema in Canterbury?

The brief was to come up with some simple, two-tone designs with a DIY aesthetic, which could be easily and cheaply reproduced. Predictably I started by looking at punk-era DIY flyers and gig posters, and I wanted to capture some of that sense of chance composition and teenage excitement. The graphics in the film are all hand-done, so it seemed natural that my lettering should be too.

But Beyond Clueless is strictly concerned with the explosion of teen films in the '90s and 2000s, and I also wanted to reflect something of the fashion from those times. Although Clueless itself only features briefly in the documentary, this seemed like like an ideal source of inspiration. So the three posters with plaid (obviously!), tie-dye and stars are all inspired by specific outfits from that film.

What was inspirational to you about this particular project?

I spent much of my time at school drawing lettering in the back of exercise books, so there was a bit of enjoyable nostalgia about this project. I really like one of the official posters for the film, which features the hand-lettered labels of rows of VHS tapes. This was a nice aesthetic to tap into, and it brought back good memories of decorating mix tapes as a teenager in the '90s.

Beyond Clueless

The whole tone of the film and of the release has been really DIY. Do you think this opens up possibilities for overstretched cinema marketing departments?

The appeal of the DIY approach is the same now as it has always been. There's something very liberating and exciting about being able to put something together cheaply that can be reproduced easily and getting it out there without big corporate backing. In some ways computers have aided this, but I really wanted to retain a sense of sitting down and doing something imperfect by hand with these posters. The way Beyond Clueless has been marketed and distributed is very DIY in today's terms, so hopefully it's a good match.

What other film design projects are you working on?

At the moment I'm also working on a series of large screen printed posters for classic sci-fi films. A whole different look!

Thank you, Charlie and Dom!

Beyond Clueless is screening at cinemas including the QUAD in Derby, the Gulbenkian in Canterbury and the Broadway in Nottingham throughout February and March. For dates see www.beyondclueless.co.uk and for more advice from Charlie on self-distribution, see "10 weird tricks to self-releasing a film in the UK".

News round-up... 10/02/2015

Posted Tuesday 10 February 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in General, News Round-up

The Big Knights
Image © The Big Knights (Astley Baker Davies Ltd)

News

  • We've set the date for our first ever Children's Screening Days, which will run on Tuesday 5 May at Showroom in Sheffield. We're really excited about this event - we'll be screening new cinema for children, young people and families alongside panels, presentations and workshops to help you initiate or develop your programming for the kids. Read more.
  • We're also looking forward to Screening Days Scotland, only a week away now! Films screening include Carol Morley's follow-up to the superb Dreams of a Life, The Falling; much-hyped Iranian vampire drama A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; Isao Takahata's exquisite-looking anime The Tale of Princess Kaguya and our upcoming release The Invisible Life - Vítor Gonçalves' wonderful new film, made after a 25 year hiatus.
  • Congratulations to Daisy Jacobs and Michael Lennox on winning, respectively, Best Animated Short (for The Bigger Picture) and Best Short Film (for Boogaloo and Graham) at the BAFTAs on Sunday. Both (also Oscar-nominated) shorts are included in our BAFTA Shorts 2015 programme with all other nominated films - now available for booking on DCP, Blu-ray and DVD.
  • The new Event Cinema Association Technical handbook has been launched. Event cinema – non-film content like plays, concerts, gallery shows, ballets and operas, delivered by satellite – has exploded in recent years. With new content on offer from increasingly diverse backgrounds, cinemas have been in need of a best practice guide offering clarity on the technical aspects of providing high quality screenings, so this comprehensive, practical handbook couldn't be more timely. Find out more.
  • Opportunities & open calls

  • BFI Flare and Creative Skillset are piloting a mentorship scheme for LGBT filmmakers - a great opportunity to get exposure, develop your industry knowledge and professional connections.
  • London Short Film Festival 2016 is now open for submissions! Earlybird deadline 10th May.
  • Encounters Film Festival needs your shorts for its 2015 edition.
  • Read more

  • Borderlines Film Festival ("easily rural UK's most impressive film festival" says the Independent) is coming up at the end of February. Programmed by the ICO's David Sin & Jonny Courtney, this year's line-up offers a fantastic array of previews and award-winning cinema from around the globe. Read David's introduction to the programme.
  • Details of Sight & Sound's enticing March issue, highlighting the "passionate, commanding and compellingSelma (and featuring an interview with its director Ava DuVernay) and the cinema of protest.
  • The BFI is inviting bookings from international exhibitors interested in screening "the lost Hitchcock" - his historic feature doc featuring footage by army and newsreel cameramen depicting the atrocities of Belsen on its liberation in 1945.
  • The only way is Wessex... Enjoy this fascinating BFI piece on John Schlesinger's 1967 classic Far from the Madding Crowd ahead of our gorgeously restored digital re-release this March.
  • Live in Lewisham? Want a local art house cinema? Of course you do. Donate to the volunteer-run Deptford Cinema!
  • "Daisy Jacobs has just been nominated for an Oscar at the age of 26. Her extraordinary animated film explores the way her grandmother’s final months of illness divided her family." A great piece on the story behind the Jacobs' BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated The Bigger Picture (and check out Jacobs' Kickstarter to fund her next film!).
  • "She’s iconic in that first scene, in an iconic Paris.[...] I was trying to really make the romantic heroine of the 21st century..." I enjoyed this interview with Girlhood director Céline Sciamma.
  • Find design inspiration in these beautiful Polish film posters.
  • Adam in Rotterdam. Soon to follow: Selina in Berlin!
  • Mild insomniac? Jeff can help.

Rotterdam Film Festival 2015: Adam's blog

Posted Friday 6 February 2015 by Adam Pugh in Festival Reports

IFFR

Rotterdam feels a bit like a copy of itself. Since my last visit in 2009 its runaway love affair with the worst excesses of steel 'n' glass neoliberal architecture shows no signs of abating. It would be hard to imagine trade had ever depended on toil at all, so complete is its recuperation (or effacement) of its industrial heritage; the city now sits like a shiny specimen in a postmodern museum. This sense of virtuality is most ruthlessly visited upon everyday transactions, with the whole city seemingly rejecting cash outright in favour of very convenient (and conveniently unpainful, for a city stuffed with financial corporations) contactless payments.

While the International Film Festival Rotterdam, itself now an historic institution in the city, also betrayed a maddening fixation with all things cashless, its programme offered a welcome counterpoint to the immateriality of the place, with, as always, a salutary breadth of activity, from mainstream releases to expanded cinema performances.

As part of the festival’s focus on the craft of the propaganda film in the Everyday Propaganda strand, a pair of Soviet agitprop documents played, bookending the span of the USSR. Today (Esfir Shub, 1929) was a remarkably crisp, sophisticated film – here accompanied live by DJ Kevin Toma – which employed an arsenal of political devices from simple emotional pleas to rhetorical tricks, designed to catch the Western viewer unawares. What was perhaps most surprising was the variety and extent of footage shot in the West: mocking our bourgeois captors with what seemed an impressively subtle sense of the class system imposed by capitalism, not cajoling or deriding us but setting up a sense of equanimity, offering a way out of the grip in which we are caught.

Bitter Lake
Bitter Lake dir. Adam Curtis

Also part of the propaganda programme, Adam Curtis’ new film Bitter Lake, which has since been released on BBC iPlayer, was signally taut and impressive, its exegesis suggesting that not faith, but faithlessness, will prove to be the West’s problem. The film, which tesselates thematically with his earlier work The Power of Nightmares (2004), traces the current chaos in Afghanistan back to a fateful deal between the US and Saudi governments, which guaranteed oil exports to the West at the expense of leaving the extreme Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism (which still forms the backbone of political and religious ideology in Saudi Arabia) unchecked. The oil flowed, but religious fundamentalism, alongside a growing resentment of the US and its allies, also flourished.

After Britain’s disastrous recent foray in Helmand, it became clear that its strategy rested on establishing and pursuing a reductive and dangerous binary of Taliban vs non-Taliban, while in effect this was a plural battle, and most of their assailants were regular Afghanis who saw that Britain and its allies were only reimposing the corrupt system they had fought to dismantle. As Curtis’ film and James Meek’s recent piece for the LRB demonstrate, of the manifold issues Afghanistan faces today, most have their roots in the British intervention of more than a century ago, also motivated entirely by profit. And the UK’s tacit support of Wahhabism is still strong, as the recent arguments surrounding King Abdullah’s death confirm.

The Dragon is the Frame
The Dragon is the Frame, dir. Mary Helena Clark

Shorts programmes were hit-and-miss, with much of the stronger work screening in non-competitive programmes. This is unavoidable to some extent at any large festival which fields thousands of submissions, but is perhaps also symptomatic of the way IFFR’s shorts appear to be programmed by committee – a shame, as the validation and context an individual curator’s name would lend each programme would benefit filmmakers and make a stronger case for programming decisions. One strong programme was The Dragon is the Frame, which included Seamus Harahan’s new film your silent face (fucking finland series) (2015); Luke Fowler’s new LUX / BBC Scotland commission Depositions (2014), The Dragon is the Frame (2014) by Mary Helena Clark, and Beatrice Gibson’s F for Fibonacci, which opened at Laura Bartlett Gallery last November.

A series of filmmaker-focus screenings accompanied the group programmes, including Egyptian filmmaker Basim Magdy and Romanian artist Irina Botea, whose films, based around the corollaries between music and music-making, and statehood or nationalism, were an interesting discovery. American artist Bruce McClure had also been invited to give a series of his signature projector performances as part of the Signals strand, which didn’t seem an altogether novel curatorial decision as McClure seems to have been involved in the festival for most of the last decade: it feels as though this section of the festival could benefit from some spring cleaning.

The three Canon Tiger Awards for Short Film of €3000 each were taken by Safia Benhaim, for La Fièvre, Ben Rivers for Things and Ben Russell for Greetings to the Ancestors. The jurors, artist Beatrice Gibson, Koyo Yamashita of Image Forum in Tokyo and Dutch curator Xander Karskens, presented the awards with a citation for each film.

IFFR
Short Film Award winners Safia Benhaim, Ben Russell and Ben Rivers

This year’s Signals strand Really? Really. focused on Surrealism. While it didn’t seem exactly surrealist, The Performer, featuring Polish performance artist Oskar Dawicki as himself, was an intriguing and well-realised feature-length film directed by Maciej Sobieszczanski and Łukasz Ronduda (curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw), which functioned at once as a narrative piece in its own right and as a framework in which to link several key works of Dawicki’s. The effect of the disjuncture between document and outright fiction it sets up was vertiginous, especially given Dawicki’s appearance on stage in the cinema after his apparent death on screen.

Benjamin Cook’s presentation of three reels of Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Year Diary, lodged since the filmmaker’s death at the Harvard Film Archive, was unsettling, unsparing and had no happy ending – but was powerfully affecting and, if not redemptive, certainly affirmative. Here, if anywhere, was the real. Despite Robertson’s desperate struggle with depression and bipolar disorder, what emerges is the effort with which she sought to undermine it and at the resolve with which she approached this unique epistolary project – filmmaking as therapy, perhaps; as compulsion, as essential as breath. There is a sense, above all else, of the filmmaker’s presence: her pain, her anxiety, but also her endurance, her continuance; her remaining in the world.

Claustrophobic, granting access only to Robertson’s immediate environment, the films manage nevertheless to conjure an assorted army of others just off-stage – the medical establishment in particular - and clothe them more vividly than any single representation might achieve. Robertson’s is a world crippled by pharmaceutical drugs, contested benefit claims and corrosion at the hands of psychiatrists. It is also a lonely place, in which lovers never materialise, parents are at arm’s length, true friends seem few and – the last twist of the knife – those close to her die. The last of the three reels shown in Rotterdam was a paean to Emily, the filmmaker’s niece, who dies as a result of heart complications, and the lacuna left by the little girl in Robertson’s world is painfully present.

Five Year Diary
Five Year Diary, dir. Anne Charlotte Robertson

Unsurprisingly, the Five Year Diary is difficult at times to watch, not least because of the economy it establishes, given Robertson’s situation, of the viewer as voyeur. But its very humanity and sense of integrity is captivating, particularly in the face of so much work made about so little; as urgent a portrait of an individual’s life as it is an indictment of the way we commonly address mental illness.

Away from the cinemas, the Art:Film convocation on Monday 26 January introduced new projects by Hala Elkoussy, Agnieszka Polska and Phil Collins, as well as reporting on the progress of a previous Art:Film-enabled project by Mark Lewis. A typically engaged, sensitive yet unstuffy project, working with a band created from inmates of New York state’s notorious Sing Sing maximum security prison, Collins’ Mr. Sing Sing in particular sounded fantastic: timely and necessary, and perhaps most worthy of funding.

An invited audience of producers, distributors and programmers heard from each production team, with the idea that as opposed to a formal pitch this was an opportunity to hear about work seeking finance in a more relaxed and generous arena (in terms of time, at least) and it seemed as though such an exercise would continue to be useful for artists making the leap from short-form to long-form films.Whether or not they receive finance as a direct result of the meeting is not so much the point, more that they make the necessary connections to start to build the networks they will need to secure finance eventually. And if not hard cash, they would doubtless accept a contactless payment.

Experience Japan through cinema - at a venue near you!

Posted Tuesday 27 January 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in Film Releases, General

Wood Job
Wood Job, dir. Shinobu Yaguchi

Since 2004, the Japan Foundation in London has organised the fantastic Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme in close partnership with distinguished film venues and programme advisors throughout the UK. It's one of only a few contemporary programmes that tours beyond London to present new Japanese cinema to regional audiences.

Each year, a list of Japanese titles is put together under a carefully chosen theme designed to highlight new trends in Japanese cinema and showcase the versatility and unique qualities displayed by Japanese filmmakers.The programme also showcases directors and works which may have slipped under the radar of other film festivals or tours.

This year’s programme, soon to screen at cinemas nationwide, is a vastly exciting array of films themed under the narrative framework of ‘encounters’. Showcasing a wide variety of styles and tones, via popular contemporary films and acclaimed classics through to animation, the programme includes titles in which characters experience seemingly unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas – asking the question: does it really only happen in the movies?

Scattered Clouds
Scattered Clouds dir. Mikio Naruse (c)1967 Toho Co., Ltd.

The film list includes titles as diverse as Mikio Naruse's glorious classic Scattered Clouds, Mipo O's stunningly beautiful drama The Light Shines Only There (Japan's entry for Best Foreign Film for this year's Oscars), innovative dystopian animations from directors including Akira's Katsuhiro Otomo in Short Peace, and Shinobu Yaguchi's (Waterboys, Swing Girls) superb new coming-of-age story Wood Job, based on the Shion Miura novel. Yaguchi is a special guest of the tour and will be appearing at screenings at the ICA, QUAD, Showroom and Watershed.

The programme opens at the ICA in London this Friday 30th January, and titles from the season are booked to screen at venues nationwide including Watershed in Bristol, Showroom In Sheffield, QUAD in Derby, mac in Birmingham, QFT in Belfast, Broadway in Nottingham and Filmhouse in Edinburgh. For the complete list of venues, click here

And if you programme an independent cinema and are interested in hosting the programme, it's available for further bookings: visit the Japan Foundation website for contact details to enquire.

Jinx
Jinx!!! dir. Naoto Kumazawa

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