Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from July 2014

Outdoor cinema at the Barn

Posted Thursday 31 July 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in General, Pop-up and Event Cinema

Outdoor cinema at the Barn
An outdoor screening in the lovely grounds of the Barn Cinema, Dartington

With weather like this, it's only natural that our thoughts should turn to films in the great outdoors! The Barn Cinema in Dartington, Devon runs lots of Outdoor Cinema screenings every year and here Barn's Cinema Manager & Film Programmer (and ICO Technical Ambassador) Jim Whittle tells us how they do it. 

Over to you Jim! 

The Barn Cinema runs a full-time film programme with at least three screenings per day run by a small team of seven staff. Although we all love working here, we don’t struggle to fill our time so when our Artistic Director approached me in the cafe and asked ‘Can we do outdoor screenings as well?’ I of course, said yes! Four years on and our outdoor film programme has expanded from three screenings per year using 35mm to twenty screenings at five different events at Dartington and across Devon - now using 2K digital projection with a choice of two sizes of screen.

Our most recent event was a series of six films over two weekends in July. Our preferred blend of new releases alongside classic and cult films can make the programming quite tricky; this time around we got a good mix with Walking on Sunshine and Tammy for our new releases (which we also screened inside the Barn Cinema for several days each), A Hard Day’s Night and The Birds for our classic film offering and for the cult film lovers, Pulp Fiction and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Outdoor cinema at the Barn
A rapt audience at one of Barn's outdoor screenings

The screenings take place in a small car park area immediately adjacent to the cinema and the cafe in Dartington’s formal gardens, so the location is ideal - both practical and aesthetically pleasing. We also have the added bonus that should it rain hard, we can quickly move the audience into the cinema and continue the screening.

For projection, we use an NEC800C / Doremi server which is located inside the cinema’s stage loading area, meaning at the end of the night we can simply shut the doors and the projector is safe. For other venues, we have made a shed with portholes to house the equipment. Our sound system is a Dolby DMA8 plus coupled with a CP650. We only use centre, left and right channels and feed the signal through a Soundcraft mixer to a powerful PA system. Our screens are standard cinema type screens either rigged to a Prolyte truss or a scaffold structure depending on the size screen we use. We are lucky that Dartington operates several high spec studio spaces and we have access to the rigging and PA systems as well as some technicians to help set it all up.

Outdoor cinema at the Barn
Waiting for the film to begin...

The weeks leading up the screenings are very busy with equipment being sourced and checked out and a lot of time checking the Met Office website. This year, the weather was very kind with lovely sunny weather; it remained warm right up until the end of the films. This helped us sell out most of the screenings with large audiences for the remainder. The events are well supported by local people and there is a marked difference in atmosphere from indoor screenings: people arrive with picnics, wine, blankets and often dressed up before films. The sight of the audience (and staff) up and dancing their way through Walking on Sunshine will stay with me for a while!

Not only do the outdoor screenings provide very welcome income during what is often a very quiet time for cinemas, but the cinema team gets a lot from these events. Everyone chips in, from making DCP trailers to designing posters and handing out leaflets in the town, not to mention rigging scaffolding, moving PA systems, seats and projectors. It is an enormous amount of additional hard work but always brings the team together and gives an enormous sense of achievement. At the end of the night, once everything has been put away and tidied up, we all share a midnight pint of cider to unwind!

Would I recommend running outdoor screenings to other indie exhibitors? Yes, you won’t regret it!

Thank you, Jim!

News round-up... 22/07/2014

Posted Tuesday 22 July 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in News Round-up

Motovun - the glorious backdrop to our Developing Your Film Festival course, run alongside the Motovun Film Festival


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 our guest blogger, 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 may elicit less excitement. 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 missed. 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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