Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from March 2017

Round up: Cultural Cinema Exhibition 2017

Posted Thursday 30 March 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, Training & Conferences

CCE 2017

After 8 days jam-packed with films both old and new, panels, presentations, discussions and workshops, we wrapped up our flagship training course, Cultural Cinema Exhibition, earlier this month.

We've brought together all of the news and learning points from across the week, touching on everything from PR to inclusion to programming in all its forms, be it specialist, curatorial or commercial. If you're a budding film exhibitor or interested in expanding your offer, this is a great place to start.   

Ask a #DYFFexpert with Wendy Mitchell

Posted Thursday 23 March 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, Training & Conferences


Last week we were joined by Wendy Mitchell, Contributing Editor at Screen International, for a live Twitter Q&A on how you can ensure your film festival is as press-friendly as possible to really boost its reputation. In case you missed it, we've gathered together all her great insights from the session below. Wendy will be joining us again as a speaker at this year's Developing Your Film Festival, our intensive training programme for film festival professionals, taking place in Edinburgh from 19 - 24 June 2017 alongside this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Applications for DYFF are open until 24 April 2017.

For Young People, By Young People: Barbican Young Programmers

Posted Thursday 16 March 2017 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers

Swagger Barbican YP
Swagger has its UK premiere at Chronic Youth 2017, programmed by the Barbican Young Programmers group

Different young programmers initiatives are popping up in cinemas around the country. They're an opportunity for cinemas to learn from young people, and young people to learn about cinemas, for everyone's benefit. Over the weekend of 18/19 March, the Barbican in London will be presenting Chronic Youth 2017, a season of six screenings produced by the Barbican Young Programmers group. Here, two of its twelve members give us their take on the process of programming and marketing.  

Ross McDonnell

Among the busy culture of film clubs and collectives exists Barbican’s Young Programmers, a group of fifteen who are entrusted to curate an annual film festival. The group has existed since 2012 with different members joining each year. The title “Chronic Youth” carries over from last year's programme. Coming-of-age films can be a difficult genre: so popular and so familiar, but regularly producing films too schematic or sterile.

The Young Programmers’ initiative is a great opportunity for us and the Barbican: the cinema team here gets first-hand insight into how we engage with cinema and receive film. In particular the challenges of dwindling nationwide average occupancy rate, multiple means of viewing, the huge number of films released theatrically per week and the incredible competition there is for young people’s attention.

For us, we get the opportunity to meet experienced curators, distributors and producers and are free to programme what we think people would want to watch — to perhaps project things we’ve only ever seen broadcast on TV or bootlegged on a laptop, or, now, on the other side of that eye-opening loss-of innocence, try and do something small toward changing how much important filmmaking sadly still goes without distribution. Our programme is finalised, we have successfully curated a film festival, and after six months what have we learned?

Our job was not to type “coming-of-age” into Wikipedia, and copy and paste what we found, but to create more inspired choices that renders the programmer not just paper-pusher or rule-follower. Instead, ideally, we hoped to pick films and filmmakers that refuse formula.

Barbican Young Programmers 2017
The Barbican Young Programmers Group 2017

Programming could be pure idealism, an impulse to turn fantasy into reality. But in reality an idea can create challenge upon challenge as it gets closer to materialising, and only eventually might it ever amount to anything. Practical realities and unavoidable logistics threaten you at every corner newly turned, hope is always commensurate with disappointment, the magical with the miserable. Why volunteer for this dangerous idea that encourages delusion and daydream? You are not going to chase your favourite filmmaker to the airport and beg them to stay, and they are not going to give you their jacket as a souvenir to remember them by. Some very worthy films had to be set aside.

In our rookie attempt at putting together a programme, we learned about the machine of International Sales and Distribution; about strange-sounding things like “Scalarama?” and “Pascale Ramonda?”; about the difference between championing a film and feeling dangerously kindred with one, a semi-selfish one-to-one connection that binds you with invisible and inextricable heartstrings.

Through the ego-threatening process of pitching our programming suggestions to the group, with space to deal with rejection and a time window to move on or bounce back, we recognised our true diversity of taste. It toughened up this group of burgeoning young professionals.

In our programming, we were ultimately (soberly) at the mercy of what is available, what is still out there in circulation, within reach, preserved. Following a “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” approach, this is what we decided on:

Something Better to Come
Something Better to Come

The programme

French film Swagger (making its UK premiere) and the Danish-Polish Something Better to Come are two most different documentaries: the former candy-coloured and kinetic, capturing the energy of its subject with a titular swagger; the latter a 14-year chronicle of the children living on Russia’s biggest garbage dump, a community struggling to survive in such adverse conditions.

Our shorts programme New Voices of Girlhood showcases five emerging female filmmakers, national and international, while 1916 silent film Shoes — the social issues it depicts still relevant today — is from one of the first women filmmakers: the pioneer Lois Weber.

Romy + Michele’s High School Reunion is a comedy both beloved and underrated, something even ahead-of-its-time when we consider how female friendships and platonic relationships are still too-rarely represented on-screen. Millennium Mambo then, is both a film by Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien and a film that can be — excitingly — contextualised and programmed outside of a Hou Hsiao-hsien retrospective. With an ambivalent chronology and minimal plot, Millennium Mambo could be film at its most existential, transferring instead a feeling of loneliness and alienation, its hedonism and melancholy just code for drug use and depression. In its twin existence - both material and immaterial - it neatly reflects the work and weight of programming and projection — the shipping of prints, the assembling of reels — all done for the sake of 105 minutes of flickering light. Millennium Mambo will be preceded by two short films (never shown before in the UK) by one of the most acclaimed working filmmakers: Mia Hansen-Løve. As well as the apparent similarities between Hou and Hansen-Løve’s work, and Hansen-Løve’s own radical approach to the coming-of-age genre, these debut shorts — made in the filmmaker’s early twenties — highlight a brilliant filmmaker’s more modest, experimental beginning.

With some films moved to larger screens and some nearly sold out, we’re very happy with what the group has achieved.

Millennium Mambo
Millennium Mambo

Will Webb

Throughout the weeks, we’ve been lucky to have heard from a selection of guest speakers who have various skills and knowledge in the many points in the film programming process - distributors, exhibitors, cinema and festival programmers, marketers and even several filmmakers. With members of our group itself having our own diverse set of interests, and different routes into programming, having different experts providing their advice and input reflected our own different interests nicely.

One insight that stands out for me has been into the marketing of festivals. Although some of us have run screenings before, this festival is a massive logistical step-up, and we’ve had great support from the Barbican marketing team. The diversity of our programme brings its own challenges, as we’re showing six very different programmes that each appeal to different slices of the Barbican audience, so we’ve been working hard to make sure we reach each respective audience through standard channels like print flyers and social media. Of course, as the final deadlines for marketing have been approaching, we’ve also been having the standard last minute shuffles and near-misses with confirming our screenings, so it’s been very hectic. This has been one part of the process where being in such a large and diverse group of programmers has really helped — with many different people involved, we’ve been able to spread the work and move at a fast pace in the final weeks before the festival.

See the full line up of the Chronic Youth Film Festival programme here. If you would like to find out how to become a Barbican Young Programmer visit: applications will open in June.  For other opportunities for young people at the Barbican see you are interested in setting up your own young programmers initiative, the BFI Film Audience Network is running a scheme to develop them. Sign up to hear more by emailing

News Round Up February 2017

Posted Thursday 2 March 2017 by Ellen Reay in General, News Round-up

screening days march

ICO News

It's a busy time in the ICO office, with new training programmes, distribution titles and research keeping us on our toes. Here's a taste of what we've got going on:

  • After receiving our highest ever number of applications for our flagship Cultural Cinema Exhibition training course, we've now confirmed the list of lucky delegates following a (very) tough selection process. Thank you to all who applied!
  • Screening Days is drawing ever closer, with only a few passes left for Monday. Our final line-up boasts 24 of the best upcoming independent and world cinema releases, as well as award-winning shorts and a range of capacity-building sessions to get you thinking about your programme and organisational identity. If you missed out on the full three-day pass, there's still the chance to see some of our great titles - The Other Side of Hope, Their Finest, I Am Not Your Negro, to name a few - on Monday, but passes are running low!
  • Our third Britain on Film on Tour programme is now available to book! Britain on Film: Black Britain gathers archive films from 1901 to 1985 to form a rare and valuable exploration of previously little-seen depictions of black British life on screen, from scenes in the Edwardian collieries of the early 19th century to partying on the streets of London during Carnival. Previous Britain on Film programmes - Railways and Rural Life - are still available to book.
  • With more speakers confirming by the day, our international Developing Your Film Festival training course - this year running in Edinburgh alongside EIFF - is shaping up to be one of our best. If you want to learn from the minds behind the world's best film festivals this is your chance! Find out more and how to apply here.
  • It is happening excitement builds for new Twin Peaks, we're whetting your Lynchian appetites with a re-release of his journey through the city of dreams in Mulholland Drive. The 'best film of the 21st century' is back in cinemas 14 April in a new 4K restoration approved by David Lynch himself.
  • Amidst all the drama of Sunday's Academy Awards® you might have spotted a clip of another classic we're re-releasing this year. The first recipient of the Academy Award® for Best Foreign-Language Film, Federico Fellini's La Strada, will be back on the big screen this May. A favourite of filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Jane Campion, La Strada is a treat for cinephiles old and new.
  • While most of our Deaf Awareness Training days are over now, with just a few spaces left for next week's session at the QFT in Belfast, our commitment to improve cinema provision for the D/deaf and hard of hearing is ongoing. We're asking film exhibitors to tell us what they do to welcome D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences into their venues, and what obstacles are standing in the way of truly great provision. If you have a spare 5 minutes, we'd really appreciate it if you could fill in our short survey on this topic.

Opportunities and Calls for Submissions

  • Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is now open for entries! Entries are welcome from any genre, and in any format and on any subject. All single screen works under 60 minutes in length will automatically be eligible for selection in the Festival's New Cinema Competition. For details and to submit your film, visit
  • Submissions are now open for London Short Film Festival 15th anniversary in 2018. LSFF accepts both UK and International submissions, presenting a diverse and confrontational programme that holds up a mirror to our rapidly changing world. Find out more and how to submit:
  • Are you aged 18-25 and not in full-time education, training or employment? Do you have a brilliant idea for a short film? Would you like training, mentorship, funding and a professional crew to help you make it? Creative England have teamed up with Sky Arts for SHORTFLIX to provide that very opportunity. Find out more about the scheme and how to apply: Deadline 5pm on Wednesday 8 March 2017.
  • Are you a film academic in the early stages of your career? Kings College London are seeking a scholar with a commitment to interdisciplinary research and education and a special interest in Film Studies for their Liberal Arts Fellowship. Find out more here.
  • There are a whole host of great opportunities listed on our Jobs page, including several positions at the brand new depot cinema in Lewes. If you're an experienced marketing, finance or front of house manager, you can really make your mark on this exciting new endeavour.
  • Read more


This is the official blog for the Independent Cinema Office, the national organisation for the development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK.


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