Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Welcome to the Digital Age

Posted Thursday 17 July 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in Cinema Careers, Training & Conferences

Last week we launched our new training initiative, Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition with a Forum at BFI Southbank. Read on for a diary of the day and an introduction to #TechSkillsUK from one of our newly appointed Technical Ambassadors - Dave Petty, AV Technician at Cornerhouse in Manchester, who'll be available to advise independent film exhibitors in the North West Hub region as part of the scheme.

Over to you, Dave!

Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition
The start of the launch at BFI Southbank

Being invited to the BFI Southbank is something any cine-literate tech geek was never going to turn down. Well, provided you’re not a born-and-bred Londoner, in which case the Southbank’s heady tourist pleasures are likely to elicit as much excitement as lukewarm coffee. But being a newly-appointed Tech Ambassador for the ICO's Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition programme, created in conjunction with the BFI Film Audience Network, time away from the office with the prospect of soaking up a whole day’s worth of technical knowledge in the company of my fellow technical peers, well – it was an opportunity not to be ignored (though admittedly, I may be speaking from a somewhat niche perspective). But I digress.

The Tech Ambassador roles have been filled by around two dozen people, hand-picked from the length and breadth of the United Kingdom to offer their expertise and specialised knowledge of digital cinema and all its AV-related trappings to those in need of a helping hand.

Tech Forum
David Monk (left), CEO of the European Digital Cinema Forum, with Tech Ambassador Peter Knight of the BKSTS

Independent exhibitors, community cinemas, film societies and festivals – all entities that may have been comfortable with 35mm and domestic-level film exhibition (via LCD projectors et al) but who may be struggling with the transition to digital. And with the industry pretty much fully converted to digital-only exhibition, the Tech Ambassadors will hopefully be an invaluable resource for any individual or organisation that requires a peg-up onto the digital ladder.

After some brief intros from Hatice Özdemirciler (ICO Head of Training & Professional Development), Tony Jones (Film Hub Central East) and David Sin (ICO Head of Cinemas), it was over to Jim Whittle from the Barn Cinema in Dartington, who outlined his prototype site visit to CUBE in Bristol.

This visit provided a framework for the Tech Ambassador pilot scheme to build upon. Jim’s extensive knowledge of D-Cinema gave CUBE the opportunity to convert to digital safe in the knowledge they had someone on hand who was familiar with kit, spec, and who crucially had worked with the handful of companies that install everything necessary to exhibit digital films to DCI-compliant spec. In a world of confusing acronyms and technical minutiae, someone like Jim is exactly what the independent sector needs; expanding that role to a fleet of Technical Ambassadors (of which Jim is one) will allow for a faster, more efficient flow of specialist knowledge for those who most require it.

Technical Ambassadors at Forum
The national spread of Technical Ambassadors 

Pressing on with the day, we had the pleasure of being bombarded with a whole array of info from David Monk, CEO of the European Digital Cinema Forum (if you ever need to know about colour spectrum separation, he’s your man) and Russell Would, Content Supervisor at the BFI, who gave us a whistle-stop tour of DCP (Digital Cinema Package) creation from the top level (Clipster) all the way to free, open source software.

Even for someone familiar with much of the areas discussed it was a lot to digest, but invaluable in terms of both brushing up my own technical knowledge, and being able to offer this knowledge to those in need as a Technical Ambassador. 

All that remains is to be allocated sites across the country we will visit to offer our advice – with the fleet ranging from freelance AV techs to long-standing projectionists (and many technical areas in-between), it’s down to the ICO to assess applicants' needs and fit an Ambassador to their requirements.

A bespoke service is being offered, and I for one am relishing the opportunity to help bring independent cinema into the digital age. For what could be an intimidating prospect for those making the transition, we as Ambassadors should be able to make the road travelled a little less bumpy.

Thank you, Dave! 

News round-up... 15/07/2014

Posted Tuesday 15 July 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in News Round-up

Technical Ambassador Map
The UK-wide spread of Technical Ambassadors available to help YOU as part of our innovative training programme


  • Do you need help with your digital projection set-up? Well look no further - we launched our unique, UK-wide Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition training initiative, developed with the BFI Film Audience Network, last week. We're really excited about this - it's a national scheme, run in partnership with the regional film Hubs who've appointed Technical Ambassadors to visit your venue, examine your needs and provide in-depth, expert advice. What's more, there are even some bursaries available for exhibitors who can't meet the costs. Full details.
  • We had a great time at Screening Days Wales last weekend. Highlights of the programme of films included Ida, the exquisite post-war Polish drama from Pawel Pawlikowski; the Dardenne brothers' Two Days, One Night; the LGBT / Miners' Strike crowd-pleaser Pride; and Nick Cave docu-drama 20,000 Days on Earth. Thanks to all who attended!
  • The BFI's Pilot Fund for Touring Cinema Initiatives is now open: so new and existing touring cinemas can apply for assistance to take cinema to communities across the UK.
  • Film Hub South East has opened a new round of Audience Development project funding across the region.
  • Europa Cinemas is now open for new membership applications. If your venue screens a high proportion of European non-national films and offers activities for young audiences, becoming a member could be well worth your while. Find out more.
  • The EU Parliament has announced the 10 films shortlisted for its annual LUX Prize, including Girlhood, Ida and The Wonders.. read the full list.
  • Cinema for All (formerly BFFS) has opened applications for its Film Society of the Year Awards 2014.
  • On 7th June Iranian filmmaker, actress and human rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for plotting against state security and propaganda against the Iranian regime. If you haven't yet, please sign the petition for her release. Read more and to sign the petition email

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Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2014: Jonny's blog

Posted Friday 11 July 2014 by Jonny Courtney in Festival Reports

This being my first time at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and indeed my first time in the Czech Republic, I'm unsure what to expect from my time here. Many of the films are unknown to me and I haven't spoken with anyone who's been to the festival, so I'm excited and just a little apprehensive about what's to come.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival
Karlovy Vary Film Festival - and (right) the Hotel Thermo, home of the festival

I needn't have worried, the festival organisers really look after their invited guests, and after my transfer from the airport I'm greeted by my assigned guide (Hugo, a lovely guy from Prague) who can't help me enough, explaining where to collect my tickets, how the festival works and walking me halfway to my hotel. This is a theme that runs through the whole festival, the staff, volunteers and security are incredibly helpful and courteous. Karlovy Vary seems to me a serious film festival that doesn't take itself too seriously; everything is done with a certain amount of modesty, charm and humour. You can see this in the short introductory films before the features, which show a range of world cinema stars trying to work out what to do with their KV awards, and especially watching the man who removes the mic stand after each speaker on the main hall (he receives a round of applause, and then doffs his cap to the audience...every time).

Having not had time to arrange tickets for the evenings screenings, my first film is an industry screening of Cannes 'buzz film' It Follows.

It Follows
It Follows by David Robert Mitchell

Written and directed by American director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover), this indie horror set in suburban Michigan tells of a teenage girl, Ray, who after sleeping with her boyfriend is haunted by a nightmarish figure who continuously follows her wherever she runs. This 'curse' is only passed on when the victim sleeps with somebody else. The premise may sound similar to past horror films, yet It Follows manages to remain unique within the genre. Slow paced and low-key, with muted colours and an atmospheric synth score that helps lend it a real sense of melancholy, the film explores themes of sexuality and loneliness whilst still delivering shocks throughout. It loses its way a little two-thirds of the way in, but this doesn't detract from what is ultimately a very interesting and original film for the modern horror fan.

Next up is the film I'm most looking forward to at the festival, Peter Strickland's (Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio) & Nick Fenton's concert film Björk: Biophillia Live. A huge fan of the Icelandic musician/artist (I saw the premiere of the Biophillia concert at Manchester International Festival), and also of Strickland's films, I worried if I could actually remain objective about this perfect marriage. The film is actually much like the majority of Björk's albums, featuring moments of brilliance, frustration, beauty and disbelief. It's a surprisingly straight but very intimate concert film, employing multiple cameras around the round stage set-up, and as you'd expect the sound mix is superb.

Bjork: Biophilia Live
A gorgeous still from Peter Strickland & Nick Fenton's Bjork: Biophilia Live

The film is most successful when focusing purely on Björk and the fantastic musicians (the version of One Day rearranged for just hang drums and her voice is a brilliant highlight). Ultimately, this is a film for fans of Björk, as others may struggle with the more difficult material and song selection. That said, anyone that watches this will surely find it difficult not to appreciate one of the most unique creative forces working today. For Strickland, it's an interesting departure, but I'm looking forward to his return to features.

On my journey from Prague to KV, I was accompanied in the car by director/producer Uberto Pasolini, whose film Still Life is screening here in the Grand Hall. Chatting with him about the films he's worked on, from The Killing Fields to The Full Monty, and the current state of the British film landscape, I was struck by his modesty and humility, and so I was interested to see how his latest film reflected his personality and how it would play to a large audience. Still Life is a quiet film as the title may suggest, telling the uniquely British story of John May, a council employee in London whose job it is to investigate the deaths of and arrange funerals for the deceased with no family members to take care of matters.

Still Life
Eddie Marsan in Uberto Pasolini's Still Life

Eddie Marsan carries the film (he is in almost every scene), as he gives a wonderfully restrained performance in a film that explores big themes (death, loneliness, love) by highlighting what, on the surface at least, is a very small story. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, this is clearly a film that's loved by festival audiences, so I'm hoping it gets a UK release.

10 questions for... a cinema marketing manager

Posted Wednesday 25 June 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in Cinema Careers

Kristina Johansen-Seznec is Head of Marketing at one of Scotland's most dynamic arts institutions, Dundee Contemporary Arts (@DCAdundee). Incorporating a two-screen cinema, two galleries, a print studio and a visual research centre, DCA has a famously wide-ranging and eclectic programme and is a world-class centre for the development and exhibition of contemporary art and culture. Kristina, over to you!

What was your route to your current position at DCA? Did you arrive at it via an interest in film, in marketing or both?

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with film. I grew up in a very small place where there wasn’t really a proper cinema so my best friend Helen and I used to go to the local video shop and rent any movies we could find, sometimes watching five or more in a weekend. We had a voracious appetite and would watch anything from the sublime (The Usual Suspects) to the terrible (She Fought Alone). But strangely I never really considered film as a possible career. At university I studied English and History of Art and quickly found marketing, PR and events roles in the arts sector and I worked in several museums and galleries before coming to DCA. 

Dundee Contemporary Arts
A packed out screen and the exterior of DCA

What key films and/or cinematic experiences informed your appreciation of cinema?

Because I didn’t live near a “real” cinema when I was younger most of my film experience was via video or later DVD. However I did visit cinemas whenever we went on holiday. My favourite was Colosseum in Oslo where we went whilst visiting family. It’s a beautiful cinema with a huge screen and this was where I watched the re-mastered re-releases of the original Star Wars films and later the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my brother Pete and my cousins Jorgen, and Andreas.

Please describe a typical day in your role, and the types of tasks you undertake.

The great thing about my job is that there isn’t really a typical day. DCA has two cinema screens, a large contemporary art gallery, print studio and café bar and I am responsible for the marketing of the whole building, not just the cinema.

What film events at your venue are the most challenging to market and why?

Like other cinemas we find art house titles like Ben Rivers' Two Years at Sea or The Turin Horse the most challenging to market. The best way to approach this is to try and build a community around this type of cinema, targeting students and building a list of interested contacts, as well as by cross-promoting these titles with other activity we have on offer. This is something we already do now, but once our new website is launched I would like to do more with this strand of the programme.

Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery and cafe
The DCA gallery and café-bar

What’s the general marketing ethos at DCA? How has it evolved in the last few years, and where do you see it going next?

The marketing ethos behind DCA is to be as audience-focused as possible; we try not to broadcast about events but to target our activity at the key audience groups who we think will respond best to a title. 

DCA has a large and varied programme and we try and give attention to as much of the activity as possible. For everything we try and identify key groups who might be interested in a specific title, for example sending special stickered versions of our Cinema Guide to local bike shops to advertise The Armstrong Lie or linking up with the YSL beauty counter in our local department store to promote Yves Saint Laurent. This year we are putting a lot of effort into revamping our online and ticket offer, and over the last few years more and more of our activity has taken place online. But this doesn’t mean that we will be cutting back on print and physical marketing, rather that we will be able to be even smarter and more targeted about what we do.

Please describe what methods you use to market the film programme – e.g. print brochure, e-newsletter, website, social media channels – and which you think are the most important for your audience(s).

The short answer is we use them all! Like many cinemas our marketing efforts currently revolve around the production of our Cinema Guide, which we print on a 6 weekly cycle. We survey our audience every six months and we use the results of this survey to determine what is working with our audience. Our last survey was completed in January of this year and told us that 38% of our audience cited the Guide as the reason they had selected to see that film on that day.

However the Guide is under pressure for a number of reasons. It’s a lot of work to produce, and is expensive to print and distribute. In addition, distributors are increasingly reluctant to commit to a release date as far as 6 weeks in advance. This leaves us in a difficult position; we know our audience likes and trusts the Guide more than any other marketing activity but this won’t be the case when we can no longer accurately promote the films within it.

Over the next 6 months we are going to review our Cinema Guide to assess whether it is still sustainable, and potentially make significant changes if we think they are the right choice for our audience. At the same time we are investing significantly in redeveloping our website and ticketing system (the current site is over 5 years old) so that any changes we do make can be backed up by a strong digital presence.   

DCA Cinema Guide
Kermit checking out the DCA Cinema Guide (from DCA's Instagram)

What are the most exciting things about your venue and what it has to offer?

The most exciting thing about DCA is the atmosphere and the people. We offer a great selection of films chosen with care specifically for our audience, in a vibrant and welcoming building. It’s this personal and welcoming touch which makes DCA special and an exciting place to work.

If you were advising a new venue on how to market themselves, what key advice would you give?

Find out who your audience is and where they hang out (both in person and online) Don’t be afraid to take risks and have fun with it!

And if you were giving advice for people looking to get into a similar career, what key advice would you give?

Marketing is a really transferable skill and the job experience is worth far more than qualifications. If you can get experience at a film organisation that’s great, but if you can’t it is worth getting relevant experience at other types of organisations (cultural, heritage, and in the business world). Also, never stop learning. Try out everything yourself, be the first to be on the new hip social network, don’t be frightened to get out there to meet people in your area, call local businesses, make connections. The tools we use as marketers will inevitably change over time but key skills like networking and creating new partnerships will always be useful.

Finally please can you describe any particular successes you’ve had in cinema marketing?

A recent example I am particularly proud of is our social media strategy for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Our Cinema Coordinator Simon came up with a Guess Who? game using the photos of all the characters from the poster for our Film Quiz. We took this idea and developed it into a quiz which could be run on social media. We created a series of three visual clues on Instagram and shared them with our audience. People were allowed to have as many guesses as they liked but only correct guesses would be entered into a prize draw to win cinema tickets posters and some macaroons coloured like those in the film. We had 20 individual entries on Facebook and 27 on Twitter.

DCA Instagram
One of the visual clues posted on DCA's Instagram for their Grand Budapest Hotel competition

This isn’t a record breaking number by any means but what was exciting was the high level of engagement it generated. In order to understand the clues people had to look at the poster, watch the trailer and watch a special video about the characters on the film's website. It also increased our number of likes and was blogged about by the local news channel STV Dundee.

Thank you, Kristina!


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